Duterte is maximizing interests, analysts say

Updated: 2016-10-27 01:33

By An Baijie(China Daily)

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Philippine president is urged to respect consensus he reached in talks with Beijing

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sought to assure Japan on Wednesday by saying that his visit to China last week was about economics only and that the South China Sea disputes should be resolved peacefully.

Duterte is maximizing interests, analysts say

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) is greeted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo on Wednesday. Issei Kato /REUTERS

"You know I went to China for a visit. And I would like to assure you that all there was, was economics. We did not talk about arms. We avoided talking about alliances," he was quoted by Reuters as saying while meeting with Japanese business leaders.

Analysts said that Duterte is trying to maximize his country's national interests by making friends with both China and Japan.

The Philippine president should respect the consensus he reached with China during his visit last week and avoid being influenced by Japan, the analysts said.

Describing Japan as a "special friend who is closer than a brother", Duterte said Manila would work closely with Japan on regional issues of common concern and uphold the values of democracy, the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes, including those involving the South China Sea.

Duterte, speaking through a Japanese interpreter at the start of his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, later said he would stand on Japan's side regarding the South China Sea, according to Reuters.

Abe said he welcomed Duterte's efforts to improve Manila's ties with Beijing. Duterte's Japanese trip follows his visit to China last week, during which the two nations restored their relationship, which deteriorated under Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who unilaterally launched the arbitration case against China over the South China Sea dispute.

During the visit, Japan is expected to offer Manila two large coast guard patrol boats — on top of an earlier pledge of 10 smaller ones — and TC-90 military training aircraft, the Associated Press reported.

Jia Duqiang, a senior researcher of Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Duterte is maintaining a "balanced diplomacy" to cater to both China and Japan, given the remarks he has made in the two countries in the past week.

"Through offering olive branches to both China and Japan, Duterte is pursuing the Philippines' maximum national interests, since both China and Japan could offer financial support to his country," he said.

Jin Yong, deputy head of the School of Foreign Studies at Communication University of China, said Duterte should stick to independent diplomacy instead of being influenced by Japan.

According to the China-Philippines joint declaration issued on Friday, the two countries agreed to maintain restraint and enhance bilateral negotiations over the South China Sea dispute.

"I think that Duterte's remarks in Japan should mostly be in accordance with what he said in China, that is, to enhance cooperation and set aside disputes," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference on Wednesday.