Chinese leader Xi Jinping gives a red-carpet welcome to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, saying he hopes the “milestone” visit could help “fully improve” ties between the two countries, which have suffered over disputes in the South China Sea.
Xi told Duterte during a meeting at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Thursday that China and the Philippines were brothers and that the two sides could “appropriately handle disputes”, though he did not specifically mention the South China Sea row, Reuters reports.
“I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things,” he said.
Duterte said he wishes to strengthen cooperation with China, calling his visit “very significant” and an indication of a “springtime” in relations.
“Stretching back centuries, China has been a friend of the Philippines and the roots of our bonds are deep and not easily severed,” Duterte told Xi.
“Even as we arrived in Beijing close to winter, this is the springtime of our relationship.”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the “jovial” ceremonies lasted around 45 minutes, with the Chinese honor guard welcoming the Philippine leader with a gun and canon salute.
About a hundred Chinese children waved little flags and flowers for Duterte while a military band played, the newspaper said.
Duterte’s congenial tone in Beijing is in contrast to the language he has used with long-time ally Washington, having called US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch”, and railed against US criticism of his war on drugs, which has led to the deaths of 2,300 people, Reuters said.
His hardline drug war tactics have raised concerns in Western capitals about extrajudicial killings, but China has expressed support for the campaign.
Duterte arrived in Beijing on Tuesday with at least 200 top business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance, amid deteriorating relations with longtime ally the United States.
The effort to engage China, months after a ruling in the Hague over South China Sea disputes in favor of the Philippines, marks a reversal in Philippine foreign policy since Duterte took office on June 30.
China has welcomed the Philippines’ new efforts to embrace China, even as Duterte has vowed not to surrender any sovereignty to Beijing, which views the South China Sea maritime ruling as null and void.
Duterte on Wednesday said the South China Sea arbitration case would “take the back seat” during talks, and that he would wait for the Chinese to bring up the dispute rather than doing so himself.
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