Philippine president's China trip puts US ties to the test


China on Monday sought to play down comments by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that he would raise a controversial arbitral ruling on the South China Sea with China's leaders, ahead of his visit to Beijing this week.

"With this visit by President Duterte, the Philippines hopes to strengthen the bilateral ties between the Philippines and China through mutual respect and honest cooperation for the prosperity and benefit of both countries and their peoples", Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Before embarking on his trip to Brunei and China, Duterte said the territorial conflicts would be taken up, including a July 12 decision by an global arbitration tribunal that invalidated China's claim, based on historical grounds, to virtually the entire South China Sea.

The Philippine market has been under pressure on concerns over elevated valuations and the administration's volatile response to critics of his deadly anti-drug campaign or so-called extrajudicial killings, which caused foreign investors to exit the market. And unlike any of his predecessors, Duterte's first state visit will be to China.

Meantime, Duterte said he would also discuss the possible purchase of arms from China, adding that Manila would stop military exercises with the United States during his presidency, Phoenix TV reported on Monday.

China's ambassador to Manila, Zhao Jianhua, said last Friday a budding bilateral friendship could boost chances of removing one of their biggest bones of contention in the South China Sea.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has told China's official news agency that China is his country's only hope for development.

Duterte, on his part, said in the interview: "There is no sense in going to war". He is also expected to meet with Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, and to visit the Great Wall and perhaps the Palace Museum in central Beijing, Chinese officials said.

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China's relations with its neighbors, meanwhile, often stagger from crisis to crisis, raising the possibility that the next dust-up over the South China Sea could result in new economic or diplomatic retaliatory measures from Beijing.

Chinese media and analysts have also urged Beijing to reciprocate Mr Duterte's goodwill.

He added, "Some other countries know we are short of money, (but) instead of helping us, all they had to do was just to criticise".

A Filippino fisherman removes tow ropes of his boat before heading out into the South China Sea, in Masinloc, Philippines, Nov. 8, 2015. "They are Filipinos but they are also Chinese", Duterte said.

What has happened to the swashbuckling presidential candidate who six months ago said he would personally retake the Spratly Islands from China, riding out to sea on a jet ski to plant the Philippine flag on a disputed shoal? Beijing refused to accept the ruling.

"Duterte is putting China on the spot", Prof De Castro said.

China's Foreign Ministry says that during Duterte's visit this week, he will participate in anti-narcotics activities and both countries' anti-narcotics departments have begun to explore cooperation.

In a press conference four days before Dutertes much-awaited state visit to China, at the Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City, Zhao said, “President Duterte has told me repeatedly that he is concerned about Filipino farmers, particularly those farmers who are growing bananas or other tropical fruits.