Beijing seeks improved relations with the Philippines
Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, Chinese foreign ministry officials said on Monday, quashing local concerns he might snub the event over a territorial dispute.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Manila on Tuesday to prepare for Xi’s presence at the annual APEC leaders’ summit from November 17 to 19.
“The Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing has officially announced this morning that Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the APEC economic leaders’ meeting in Manila,” Philippine Foreign Affairs department spokesman Charles Jose said.
According to a report of the state-run Xinhua news agency, President Xi would be coming straight from the G20 summit in Turkey where he was invited by his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He was also similarly invited by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Chinese Foreign Ministry (MFA) spokesman Lu Kang said.
“At the invitation of President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd of the Republic of the Philippines, President Xi Jinping will attend the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Manila, the Philippines from November 17 to 19,” the MFA said in a statement posted on its website.
Malacañang had said it is hoping that Xi would accept the Aquino’s invitation to attend the APEC meeting.
Aquino and Xi previously met during the APEC Leaders’ Meeting held in Beijing last year.
The visits by Wang and Xi will offer a rare opportunity for top-level talks between Manila and Beijing, which have seen diplomatic relations plummet in recent years over rival claims to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The Philippines has been angered by what it has branded China’s “bullying” and “hypocritical” tactics, including building artificial islands and taking control of a rich fishing shoal in Filipino-claimed waters.
China has in turn been angered by the Philippines’ efforts to have a United Nations tribunal rule on the dispute, as well as its encouraging of the United States to exert military and political influence.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea.
In discussing the visits to Manila, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei also on Monday said China wants to improve relations with the Philippines.
“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.”
But Hong emphasized the onus rested on the Philippines to improve ties.
“We hope the Philippines can work toward the same direction together with China… deal with relevant issues in a constructive way and create favorable conditions for the improvement of bilateral ties,” he said.
President Aquino’s only meeting with a Chinese leader in recent years was a very brief encounter with Xi at a tree-planting ceremony at the sidelines of the last APEC summit, which China hosted.
Most leaders from the 21-member APEC grouping, including US President Barack Obama, had already accepted invitations from the Philippines to attend the Manila edition, which starts on November 18.
The silence until Monday from Beijing over whether Xi would attend had fueled speculation in the Philippines that he intended to snub Aquino because of the row.
President Aquino’s sisters will host the spouses of leaders of APEC member -countries who would be attending the APEC summit next week.
“The President is a bachelor so her sisters will take on the role designated for the Chief Executive’s spouse. The sisters are hosting the spouses which is the most natural thing to do,” Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., director-general of the APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, said.
Aquino–he only son of the late former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the late former President Corazon Aquino–has four siblings: Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada, Viel Dee and show business personality Kris Aquino.
The Aquino sisters will attend to the spouses and take them on a tour of Intramuros in Manila on November 19.