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Philippines: Duterte, Xi in Telephone Diplomacy as Bilateral Ties Warm Up

Felipe Villamor
Manila
2017-05-04
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony in Beijing, Oct. 20, 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony in Beijing, Oct. 20, 2016.
AFP

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he had spoken by phone with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after U.S. President Donald Trump asked him to discuss the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula with Beijing’s leader.

Duterte said he called Xi on Wednesday and told him that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc and Trump were of the same position “that you can do something” to help ease geopolitical tensions around the situation on the peninsula.

The telephone diplomacy came after Trump spoke to him days earlier “to ask me if President Xi Jinping could do something about the situation regarding Kim Jong Un,” Duterte said in the southern city of Davao.

“Actually, the biggest contribution of all others is your intervention,” Duterte said he told Xi.

Duterte said he expected the American president to call him again and that he would report to Trump on what had transpired.

“But definitely we are getting the help of everybody here,” he said, adding that he knew that their phone conversation was recorded.

“Of course, China was listening. Of course Russia was listening. Everybody is listening. Even now everybody is listening.”

Budding friendship

On Wednesday, Xi and Duterte announced that they had a telephone conversation in which they both agreed to move forward with a newfound “bilateral momentum.”

The two agreed to push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and to resolve the problem through dialogue with Pyongyang and all other concerned parties were urged to exercise restraint, according to a transcript of the conversation released by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Duterte’s call came two days after the Chinese destroyer Chang Chun docked in the southern Philippine city of Davao, the first time in seven years that a Chinese vessel had done so.

Apart from the Korean Peninsula, Xi and Duterte also discussed overlapping claims in the South China Sea, which analysts in the region have said could be a potential flash point of conflict pitting China against its smaller neighbors.

Taiwan and ASEAN states Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim the sea region as well.

China insists it has sovereign rights over the region and the dispute risked blowing into a full-blown military confrontation among claimants, with Beijing recently believed to have enhanced its defense capabilities on islands it has claimed.

Xi noted the improving bilateral relations with Manila, according to the transcript.

“The dialogue channels on the South China Sea issue have also been established. This is in full accord with the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples and is fully affirmed by the Asian neighbors and the international community,” Xi said.

He said Beijing and Manila should stick to the “general direction of good-neighborly and friendly cooperation” moving forward, a clear reference to the territorial wrangling.

The Philippines, Xi said, is a “friendly neighbor of China and an important partner.”

For his part, Duterte said he was happy relations between the two have been “rapidly resumed and advanced,” according to the transcript.

“The Philippine side is willing to work with China to maintain the improvement and development momentum of bilateral relations,” he said.

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