Beijing seeks better ties with Manila

China's President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the fifth regular foreign ministers' meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
China's President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the fifth regular foreign ministers' meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China hopes to get relations with the Philippines back on track, Chinese President Xi Jinping has told his incoming Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte, after ties were affected by an increasingly bitter spat over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Mr Xi sent a message to Mr Duterte late on Monday congratulating him on his election victory. He also said their countries have had a long history of friendly exchanges and a deep traditional friendship, according to China's Foreign Ministry.

"The friendly, stable and healthy development of Sino-Philippine relations accords with the basic interests of both countries and both peoples," Mr Xi was quoted as saying in the ministry statement.

Both countries have the responsibility to deepen cooperation, he said. "(I) hope both sides can work hard to push Sino-Philippine relations back onto a healthy development track," he added.

China and the Philippines are locked in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) worth of ship-borne trade passes every year.

TOWARDS HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIP

(I) hope both sides can work hard to push Sino-Philippine relations back onto a healthy development track.

CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING, in a message congratulating Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte on his election victory.

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

Tension between the Philippines and China has risen as an international tribunal in The Hague prepares to deliver a ruling in a case lodged by Manila in 2013.

The Philippines is seeking a clarification of United Nations maritime laws that could undermine China's claims to 90 per cent of the South China Sea. China has rejected the court's authority.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing seeks better ties with Manila'. Print Edition | Subscribe