Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Aquino promises warm welcome for Xi

AFP, MANILA

A policeman patrols a street leading to the venue of the upcoming APEC summit in Manila, Philippines, yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III pledged a warm welcome for Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at an economic summit in Manila next week, despite an ongoing row with the nation’s giant Asian neighbor over disputed islands, an aide said yesterday.

The Philippine leader made the pledge as he hosted rare talks with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅), who is in Manila on a working visit ahead of the annual APEC summit.

“The president mentioned that he welcomed the decision of President Xi Jinping to attend the APEC summit,” Aquino spokesman Herminio Coloma told reporters after Wang’s courtesy call.

“He assured the foreign minister that it is in the culture of the Filipinos as hosts to make our guests feel the warmth of Filipino hospitality,” Coloma added.

Wang, who did not speak to the media, called on Aquino after holding talks with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario.

The visits by Wang and Xi offer a rare opportunity for top-level talks between the Asian neighbors, which have seen diplomatic relations plummet in recent years over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea.

The Philippines has been angered over what it has branded China’s “bullying” and “hypocritical” tactics, including building artificial islands and taking control of a rich fishing shoal in Philippine-claimed waters.

China has in turn been angered over the Philippines’ efforts to have a UN tribunal rule on the dispute, as well as by Manila encouraging its defense ally, the US, to exert military and political influence.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbors. Other nations with claims to all or parts of the South China Sea include Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Marciano Paynor, head of the hosts’ APEC summit organizing committee, on Monday told reporters the maritime row would be off the summit agenda.

“I will reiterate that when we meet at APEC, it’s all economic issues and we do not take up bilateral, specific bilateral issues in APEC,” Paynor added.

Beijing also said the APEC summit should not discuss rising tensions in the region after a regional defense ministers’ meeting failed to issue a joint communique in a split over the issue.

“There is no plan to discuss the South China Sea issue,” Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Baodong (李保東) told reporters in Beijing.

“APEC is mainly a platform to discuss economic and trade cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added. “There is consensus on this point.”

Discussing the Beijing officials’ visits to Manila, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) on Monday said that China wanted to improve relations with its neighbor.

“For reasons known to all, bilateral relations are facing difficulties, which is not something we want to see,” Hong told reporters in Beijing. “We value bilateral ties, and we would like to properly resolve relevant issues through consultations and negotiations.”

However, Hong emphasized in his comments that the onus rested on the Philippines to improve ties with Beijing.

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