Malacañang steered clear of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s statement on Thursday that China should become a “maritime power” but said it hoped for warmer relations with Beijing under a new leader.
“We know that they are a superpower. As to the details of that, we would let the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) answer that first,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told a press briefing in the Palace.
At the opening of 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Hu called for the enhancement of the country’s capability to exploit marine resources, safeguard its maritime right and interests, and build China into a maritime power.
Hu’s statements are likely to cause alarm among China’s neighbors, including Vietnam and Japan, which, like the Philippines, are involved in disputes with China over territory in Asian waters.
The Philippines remains in a standoff with China at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and is pursuing a diplomatic, political and legal solution to the dispute.
Lacierda said Manila hoped for warmer relations with Beijing under Xi Jinping, the Chinese vice president who is widely expected to become the next leader of China.
Lacierda said Philippine officials should wait at least a year to see how relations with Beiijing would proceed under Xi.
Wait and see
“We certainly hope for a warming of relations but let’s wait and see for them to settle down,” Lacierda said.
“I think it takes a year for the whole transition to be effected. So let’s just wait and see. It’s too early to say,” he added.
President Aquino met with Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Fu Ying in late October amid the stalemate over Panatag Shoal.
Days before Fu’s visit, the President said the situation was “a little better” with Beijing, though far from normal. He said he hoped relations with China would become warmer under a new Chinese leadership.
Lacierda said more joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States would be held under the second term of US President Barack Obama.
More joint maneuvers
Obama was reelected on Tuesday, beating Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
All the joint maneuvers will be held under the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, Lacierda said.
President Aquino met with Obama in Washington in June, and both leaders announced a consultation as part of the US “pivot” to Asia military strategy.
Last month, Mr. Aquino promised Philippine cooperation with the US “policy of rebalancing” in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mr. Aquino sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday, congratulating him for winning the US presidential election and saying he was looking forward to a “deeper cooperation” during Obama’s second term.
Lacierda said Mr. Aquino was not going to call Obama because the US president was probably getting many phone calls.
“I think the letter is sufficient,” Lacierda said.
UK call for peace
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom on Thursday renewed its calls to countries with conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea to settle their disputes according to international law.
Nicole Davis, head of the UK Foreign and Commonweath Office’s Asia-Pacific Security Team, said the British government was keen on seeing a peaceful resolution to tensions in the sea, home to vast mineral deposits and sea-lanes vital to global trade. With a report from Tarra Quismundo