The top diplomat in China asked the Philippines Tuesday not to raise contentious problems — an apparent reference to the Asian neighbors’ territorial spats — in Manila in an annual economic summit of Asia Pacific leaders next week, a Filipino official said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s request, relayed during talks in Manila to his Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario, underscored Beijing’s objection to any attempt to bring the long-ramp disputes to a global area, where rivals like Washington could use it to criticize Beijing.
Non-inclusion of the thorny issue would likewise protect Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is anticipated to attend the Nov. 18-19 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Manila, from a possibly embarrassing confrontation.
“They said they hope that controversial issues is not going to be raised during Apec,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a news conference, when requested in case the disputes were discussed in Wang’s hourlong chat with del Rosario.
Wang also mentioned that his Manila visit was to ensure that Xi’s visit “will be simple, safe and successful,” Jose said.
Aquino said he welcomed Xi’s decision to join the assemblies and assured “the heat of Filipino hospitality,” according to presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma.
The Philippines, Jose said, concurred that the assemblies in Manila wouldn’t be the appropriate forum to discuss the struggles, including that Manila has a pending legal challenge against Beijing’s substantial claims before an international tribunal in The Hague.
“In the context of APEC, we both agreed that APEC is an economic newsgroup also it won’t be a suitable venue to discuss political and security problems,” Jose said.
Requested if other leaders can raise the thorny issue, Jose said they can.
However he said that China “attaches importance to its relationship with the Philippines and remains committed to properly resolving applicable problems through consultations and negotiations.”
The Philippines, China and four other governments have claims across the South China Sea that is vast, with Beijing asserting it has sovereignty over virtually all of the waters. A number of the disputed areas are considered to remain atop vast undersea deposits of oil and gas.
Jose said the two sides also agreed to resume bilateral consultations at the vice foreign minister amount “to explore areas where we could move bilateral relations forward.”
It is the Philippines turn to host this type of meeting, the date is to be discussed. The last such consultation took place in 2013.
But contentious issues will be excluded by the consultations such as the South China Sea as consented to by Aquino and President Hu Jintao during Aquino’s state visit to China in 2011, Jose said.