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FVR, China exec meet

HONG KONG – Former President Fidel Ramos said yesterday that China has welcomed him to visit Beijing for discussions in the wake of last month’s international arbitration panel’s ruling in favor of the Philippines over China’s South China Sea maritime claims.

Ramos said in a statement that he met in Hong Kong with the Chinese legislature’s foreign affairs chief Fu Ying and a leading government-backed scholar on the dispute, Prof. Wu Shicun, and agreed on the need to reduce tensions through talks.

Ramos “expressed the Philippine government’s desire to hold formal discussions with the Chinese government on issues of mutual concern and interest at the appropriate time to explore pathways to peace and cooperation,” the statement said.

A statement sent to reporters described the meeting as between old friends and took place in a friendly atmosphere.

However, Ramos told reporters at a brief news conference that the ruling had not been directly discussed and gave no indication of when the Beijing talks might be held and suggested another negotiator might take his place.

The July 12 ruling by the panel in the Hague, Netherlands, ruled China’s maritime claims had no basis in international law.

Ramos said there would be ample opportunities for talks between the two governments at a series of upcoming international gatherings. (AP and Elena L. Aben)