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BEIJING, China — Instead of dwelling on the territorial spat with China in the South China Sea, President Duterte is looking forward to a productive visit to China particularly on forging closer economic alliance.
The President prefers to focus on improving the country’s ties with China, especially on trade and investments, rather than the maritime row during his four-day state visit here.
“Plenty happiness for my country,” Duterte said in a media interview last Wednesday night when asked about his expectations during his China visit.
Asked if he would discuss the South China Sea issue, the President said: “No, that’s not the topic, on the agenda.”
Duterte admitted that the maritime issue might “crop up” but assured he would talk about it “softly.” “It’s going to be a soft landing for everybody. No impositions,” said Duterte who earlier ruled out any bargaining of the country’s territorial rights in pursuing stronger economic cooperation with China.
On Thursday, the President is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to renew friendship ties, forge new cooperation deals, despite the unresolved territorial conflict in the South China Sea. Duterte’s itinerary also includes a meeting with the Chinese business community to encourage them to invest in the Philippines.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. also affirmed that the President’s meeting with the leaders of China would focus on improving the bilateral diplomatic and economic relations.
Yasay said there would be no discussion about the reported joint exploration with China in the South China Sea during the President’s visit.
“We’re not talking about joint exploration. This is not the time to talk about joint exploration,” he said.
“We’re just simply talking about how we can improve better ties with China without eroding or compromising our disputes which is just a small portion of our relationship with China as regards the South China Sea,” he added.
Neither the reported joint military exercises between the Philippines and China nor the fishing rights of Filipinos in the disputed territory would be discussed in the President’s trip to Beijing, according to Yasay.
“We’re taking advantage of the opportunities, making sure that the other aspects of our relationship with our neighbor China will be pursued so this is the reason why we’re here,” he said. (Genalyn Kabiling)