Chinese officials to hold talks in Manila

Updated: 2012-10-19 01:35

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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Deputy foreign ministers from China and the Philippines will meet in Manila on Friday in their first official high-level talks since the row over Huangyan Island began in April.

A Chinese delegation led by Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying is scheduled to hold talks with Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda F. Basilio on Friday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday.

Fu will also meet separately with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, the ministry said. It called the talks a venue "to review existing cooperation and chart the future direction of Philippine-Chinese diplomatic relations".

The regular meeting, officially called the 18th Foreign Ministry Consultations between the Philippines and China, came amid a relatively calm but still unresolved territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Tensions flared up in April when ships from the two countries became locked in a standoff over an uninhabited group of islets of Huangyan.

Analysts said the meeting will help calm tensions as both sides do not want the row to endanger regional stability, but it can hardly resolve the issue unless Manila shows enough sincerity.

China attaches great importance to the two countries' relations and is willing to work with the Philippine side to boost relations, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news conference on Thursday.

"We hope the Philippines will go in the same direction as China and make substantial efforts to make progress in bilateral relations," Hong said.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday he hoped relations would improve after the once-in-a-decade change in China's leadership next month, when there will be more room to negotiate.

Speaking at a foreign correspondents' forum in Manila, Aquino said bilateral relations warmed "a little" following Philippine Interior Secretary Mar Roxas' meeting with Vice-President Xi Jinping in China in late September.

Yang Baoyun, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at Peking University, said Manila's efforts to repair ties may be the result of pressure from dwindling trade with China, the hampered Association of Southeast Asian Nations integration process and regional instability.

But the core issue — who has sovereign rights over Huangyan Island — has not been resolved. "The two-faced Manila shows limited sincerity as it has played up the tension through provocations from time to time," Yang said. "It is very likely to raise the South China Sea issue again during the Asia-Europe leaders' meeting in Laos in November."

Manila has proposed bringing the issue to the 10-member ASEAN, while China insists on solving bilateral disputes through individual negotiations.

Manila will not abandon a multilateral tack in dealing with the territorial dispute with China by resorting to unofficial negotiations, Aquino said.

AFP and AP contributed to this story.

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