Duterte says he will not 'impose' on China

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping review the guard of honor as they attend a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, October 20, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

Visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte struck a conciliatory pose during the second day of his four-day visit to China on Wednesday, downplaying the sensitive South China Sea issue at his first news conference in Beijing.

"I'm here on a state visit to bring my respect to the great Chinese people and the Chinese government," he said.

The plain-spoken leader defended his controversial anti-drug campaign and blasted US military involvement around the world.

But he also added a bit of levity late Wednesday in explaining his lack of public engagements in the first 24 hours of his stay in the Chinese capital since his arrival on Tuesday night.

"I slept," he said when asked what he did on Wednesday, triggering laughter from reporters.

China is the first country outside ASEAN he has visited since taking office on June 30. He will meet with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Zhang Dejiang on Thursday.

The visit has stirred hopes that Duterte will raise China-Philippine relations from the low caused by the South China Sea arbitration case filed against Beijing by the Cabinet of his predecessor Benigno Aquino III.

China has refused to recognise the result, which it says is invalid.

When a reporter with the Japanese TV broadcaster NHK asked if he would raise the arbitration issue when meeting with Xi, Duterte said it is not the time to do so, and he will tell Xi, "I'm not here to make hard impositions".

"I have to be courteous. ... It is a matter of courtesy and an Oriental way," he said, adding, "Because I am a visitor now, I cannot destroy the good will."

On the potential economic outcome of his meeting with Chinese leaders on Thursday, Duterte said, "We will be asking for help from China." He did not elaborate.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said, "As long as the two sides embark on dialogue and return to consensus, divergences will be managed and controlled and a new window will be open for further repair of China-Philippine ties."

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, "China-Philippine ties returning to the right track of healthy, stable development is good news for both countries as well as for regional peace and stability," Hua said.

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