China and Philippines thawing tensions

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met on Tuesday to discuss recent frosty relations including disputes surrounding the South China Sea. Both parties expressed an intent for further co-operation during the “meeting of minds”.

Beijing, CHINA, Nov 11, 2014 – There finally seems to be some positive prospects for international relations between the Philippines and China, after more than two years of thorny posturing following the Chinese seizure of the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea in June of 2012. The small rocky outcrop has no terrestrial value but is known to local fisherman as a rich fishing ground, and is believed to also harbor oil and natural gas reserves.

At the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing, Aquino said, “The warmth was there… there was sincerity,” following an informal meeting with Xi Jinping following a tree planting ceremony on the outskirts of the Chinese capital city,

“There was factual layout of the… issues, where we were, where we are and where we will be. [On] most of the general points, we had a meeting of the minds… South China Sea was mentioned in passing… There was mention of finding constructive ways to solve this,” he added. Encouragingly, Reuters reported that this meeting was held on the initiative of China’s leadership, indicating a recognition for the need for progress.

The Chinese state media run Xinhua news agency similarly stated that both sides would “move in the same direction” and “constructively deal with [the issue]”.

In the past the Philippine administration has irked China’s central government by seeking international arbitration over China’s “nine-dash-line” claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea. In retaliation, Chinese leadership has avoided communication with Manila, snubbing Aquino at the recent China-ASEAN trade expo, and the Xinhua news agency has vigorously portrayed the Philippines as sub-ordinate to the US foreign agenda, and simultaneously, a great bastion of terrorism.

During a choreographed photo shoot at the Water Cube, the swimming venue during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, on Monday, it was noted that Aquino stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was flanking Xi Jinping – a symbolic gesture of goodwill. Interestingly, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, disliked by much of China for Japan’s recent nationalistic posturing, stood behind, in the second row.

Aquino’s last visit to China was in 2011, and he is slated to host next year’s APEC summit in Manila.

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