BEIJING (REUTERS) - Relations between China and the Philippines are at a new turning point, and Beijing hopes Manila can meet it halfway and handle disputes appropriately, a top Chinese diplomat has told a visiting Philippine delegation.
China and the Philippines have been involved in an increasingly ugly territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) of trade moves annually, while Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have rival claims.
An arbitration court in The Hague invalidated China's claims to the waterway in July after a case was brought by the Philippines, a ruling that Beijing refuses to recognise.
Both countries have since been on a diplomatic push to ease tensions, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang telling Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte he hoped the two countries could bring bilateral ties back to a normal track.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a delegation from a Philippines foreign affairs committee in Beijing that ties had recently "sunk to a low edge for reasons everyone knows", China's Foreign Ministry said late on Tuesday.
"At present, China-Philippine relations are at a new turning point," the statement quoted Liu as saying.
China "hopes the Philippines side can meet China halfway, appropriately handle disputes and push relations back onto the track of dialogue, consultation and friendly cooperation", he said.
A Philippines special envoy, former president Fidel Ramos, said during a visit to Hong Kong last month that Manila wanted formal negotiations with China to explore pathways to peace and cooperation.