China envoy says sea dispute should not hold hostage Manila-Beijing ties
by Alexis Romero / February 27,2017/ PhilStar
MANILA, Philippines — The relationship between Manila and Beijing should not be held hostage by the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) dispute, China’s ambassador to the Philippines said Monday.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua said the maritime dispute only constitutes about 1 percent of the relationship between the two countries.
“We cannot allow the 1 percent to take the 99 percent as a hostage. And that is a lose-lose situation,” Zhao told reporters in Malacañang.
“We are glad that after your president’s successful state visit to China, we are now focusing areas where both sides can benefit,” he added, referring to Duterte’s visit last year.
China has built artificial islands and structures in disputed areas, worrying some members of the international community who believe that the move could affect freedom of navigation.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Southeast Asian ministers have expressed “grave concern” over what they perceived as the “militarization” of some areas in the South China Sea.
China frowned upon Yasay’s statement, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang describing it as “baffling and regrettable.”
President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that the Chinese government “misunderstood” Yasay and stressed that it is not yet the time to raise the arbitral ruling that favored the Philippines with China.
“Well, I think President Duterte is very wise and also pragmatic,” Zhao said.
“What is more important by enhancing cooperation in economic, trade, infrastructure, tourism, the Filipino people can benefit more from a good and cooperative relationship with China. So in that sense, I totally agree with your president.”
Zhao said Duterte has also accepted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to visit Beijing to attend the high-level One Belt, One Road summit in May.
Last year, a Hague-based arbitral tribunal voided China’s maritime claim, which covers about 90 percent of the South China Sea. China rejected the ruling, calling it “a mere piece of paper” and “illegal since day one.” Read more…