Top Chinese diplomat, Philippine president meet in Manila, agree to resolve South China Sea conflict through talks
China has expressed its “firm support” to the new Philippines government of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who began his six-year term earlier this month.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Marcos in Manila on Wednesday and said Beijing is “willing to engage with the Philippines to conduct cooperation” in four key areas of agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
Wearing Filipino dress barong, Wang told Marcos the two countries should make efforts to be good neighbors, good friends and good partners, according to Ji Rong, a diplomat at China’s Foreign Ministry.
Marcos said he was grateful to Wang for “extending the message of congratulations and support from President Xi Jinping.”
“We also discussed agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and our commitment to maintaining the strong relationship between our peoples in the coming years,” the Philippine president said on Twitter.
Wang is the first foreign dignitary to meet the new government in Manila after the Marcos administration took oath on June 30.
“Both sides agreed to upgrade cooperation at a new starting point to usher in a ‘golden age’ in bilateral ties and deal with South China Sea issue through dialogue and communication,” Ji added.
The two countries contested the South China Sea at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2016 where Manila emerged victorious as Beijing’s claims over the resource-rich sea were invalidated by The Hague-based authority.
Ahead of his inauguration, Marcos had last month said about the South China Sea: “There is no wiggle room there. Our sovereignty is sacred. We will not compromise it in any way.”
Later, in what appeared a change of tone, Marcos said China was “our close neighbor and good friend,” adding that the Philippines “will continue to pursue an independent foreign policy.”
Ahead of Wang’s trip, Marcos had said he was open to military exchanges with China “if that will be useful” to expand bilateral ties with China beyond the South China Sea territorial dispute.
– ‘No choice than to stay true to friendship’
Wang separately met with Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte Carpio and National Security Advisor Clarita Carlos.
“China and the Philippines are neighbors that have no other choice than to stay true to their friendship,” Wang told Carlos.
The two sides, said Ji, “agreed to safeguard overall interests of China-Philippines friendship, avoid defining bilateral ties by disputes and not let specific differences hinder bilateral cooperation.”
Luis Enrique Manalo, Philippines’ top diplomat, during his meeting with his Chinese counterpart said he hoped “to elevate bilateral ties to a higher level.”