Chinese foreign minister welcomes dialogue with Philippines on SChina Sea

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OTTAWA: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday he welcomes a possible warming of relations with the Philippines, currently strained over China’s claims to most of the South China Sea.

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Speaking during a visit to Canada after incoming Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte recently heaped praise on Chinese president Xi Jinping, Wang Yi told a news conference in Ottawa that “the door of dialogue between China and the Philippines is always open.”

“If the Philippines sincerely wants to come back to the track of dialogue and negotiations, we welcome that,” he said.

“China and the Philippines properly handling disputes through direct dialogue and consultations is helpful for breaking a deadlock in the bilateral relations in recent years,” he added.

Wang Yi was in Ottawa for meetings with his counterpart Stephane Dion and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Duterte on Tuesday described Xi as “a great president,” in a hint that frosty relations between the Asian neighbors could soon warm.

Their ties soured during the six-year term of outgoing President Benigno Aquino, whose government sued China before a United Nations tribunal over its claims in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building low-lying ocean features and sandy blips into islands for military bases.

With a ruling expected in the coming weeks, the Philippines’ response will probably be left to Duterte, who takes office on June 30.

In contrast to Aquino, Duterte has said he is willing to engage China in bilateral talks on the issue.

However, he has also played to nationalist sentiments by saying he would ride a jet ski to plant a Philippine flag on disputed islands in the sea. AFP

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