What me, aloof? President Xi even wants to come back to Manila.
This in essence was what President Benigno Aquino 3rd said as he brushed aside criticisms that he snubbed the Chinese leader during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that was held in Manila last week.
Speaking to reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit, the President claimed that a senior aide to President Xi Jinping said the Chinese leader had expressed his intention to visit Manila again.
During the APEC leaders’ meeting last November 18, the President was photographed chatting with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as Xi seemed all alone at the far end of the frame.
When asked about Xi being aloof, President Aquino replied that the impression was wrong.
“It’s really difficult to talk if you speak different languages. But I’m sorry … I read somewhere that we were aloof with each other. We’re not. It’s just that if there’s no translator, there’s no dialogue,” Aquino said in Filipino.
“Every time we’d interact, there’s always an interpreter. Whenever I greet him ‘Good morning,’ he answers in Chinese. When we were walking in one function, no one was beside me. He didn’t have an interpreter with him, so was I,” he added.
The Chinese leader was reportedly hesitating to attend the APEC summit as he was wary of negative reception he would get in Manila, considering that the two countries are locked in a bitter maritime dispute.
But Aquino said an aide had told him that Xi was “animated” during his send-off and had indicated that he wants to return to the Philippines.
The President, on his arrival in Manila from Kuala Lumpur, expressed appreciation for the support of the international community for peaceful resolution of the dispute.
During the summit, he said, most fellow Asean members, as well as other dialogue partners, were convinced that international law could resolve tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Many now agree with us that we should stand with what’s fair, peaceful and reasonable way to resolve disputes in accordance with international laws. This is far from the situation before when we started attending the Asean summit. Now, even those we used to try convincing to agree with our position are saying there’s a need for a Code of Conduct,” the President added in Filipino.
At the East Asia Summit, Aquino, along with the other Asean leaders, adopted the Declaration on Enhancing Maritime Cooperation that seeks to promote peace, stability and security in the region.
The declaration also encourages more countries to accede to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Aquino earlier called on China to respect the rule of law in making extensive claims over the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in its entirety.
The Philippines recently filed an arbitration case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations convention.
The tribunal sided with Manila in the initial round of the case, saying it has jurisdiction over it.
Aquino expressed his hope that the arbitration case between the Philippines and China will result in full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the conclusion of a Code of Conduct.