By MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO, Reporter
A CHINESE official is hoping that the Duterte government will step off the “wrong path” taken by the Aquino administration in handling the maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei expressed hopes that President Rodrigo Duterte will work together with China in resolving the bitter sea row.
The Aquino Administration refused to hold bilateral talks with China and instead filed a case questioning Beijing’s claim on almost the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“We hope that the new Philippine government will work in unison with us, veer away from the wrong path taken by the former government, return to the right track of having dialogue and consultation with China, and make tangible efforts to improve and develop China-Philippines relations,” Hong was quoted as saying in a translated transcript issued by the ministry.
The spokesman made the statement in reaction to Duterte’s recent statement that he was willing to talk with China after the United Nations-backed tribunal rules on the case this month.
Hong stressed that bilateral dialogues and consultations are the only viable way to ease the tensions.
Bu he maintained that China will not accept or recognize whatever ruling the arbitral tribunal will hand down.
“The South China Sea arbitration case initiated by the Philippine Aquino administration is illegal, null and void from the outset,” he said. “China does not accept any proposal or action by any country based on the ruling.”
Meanwhile, the official said China’s supposed historic rights in the West Philippine Sea conform with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
“China’s historic rights in the South China Sea are formed along the course of history, and are solidly founded on historical and jurisprudential grounds. These rights are protected by international law including Unclos and brook no denial,” Hong said.
Also on Thursday, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua met with Duterte during a courtesy call in Malacañang.
“The Chinese Ambassador made a courtesy call conveying President Xi Jinping’s congratulations,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in a text message.
He did not say what was discussed by the two officials.
Present during the meeting was Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.
With Catherine Valente