En­voy seeks to break ice with Bei­jing

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China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By AN BAIJIE in Bei­jing an­bai­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn Zhang Yaozhong con­trib­uted to this story.

A spe­cial Philip­pine en­voy who is in Hong Kong to test the waters of bi­lat­eral ties sug­gested on Tues­day that Manila and Bei­jing co­op­er­ate on sec­tors of com­mon in­ter­est to rekin­dle their re­la­tion­ship, which was soured by mar­itime dis­putes.

Ex­perts said that al­though the pro­posal by the en­voy, for­mer Philip­pines pres­i­dent Fidel Ramos, to im­prove eco­nomic and tourism links might be con­sid­ered by China, the Philip­pines’ at­ti­tude to­ward the ar­bi­tra­tion rul­ing on the South China Sea re­mains the key to restor­ing ties.

Ramos, 88, also told re­porters on Tues­day that he planned to meet with Wu Shi­cun, who heads the Na­tional In­sti­tute for South China Sea Stud­ies, a think tank on China’s south­ern­most Hainan Is­land.

Ramos, who gave no other de­tails of his itin­er­ary for the five-day trip to Hong Kong, said ear­lier that he would meet “old friends” with links to of­fi­cials in Bei­jing.

Wu did not re­spond to phone calls from China Daily seek­ing com­ment on Tues­day.

As a spe­cial en­voy of Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, Ramos de­fined the trip as “ice­break­ing”, af­ter bi­lat­eral ties were jeop­ar­dized by an ar­bi­tra­tion case uni­lat­er­ally ini­ti­ated by Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor, Benigno Aquino III.

“The idea is to use the South China Sea as a place to save lives, not to kill peo­ple or to de­stroy lives,” Ramos said.

Dur­ing his time as pres­i­dent, from 1992 to 1998, the two coun­tries eased ten­sions caused by con­fronta­tions over Meiji Reef.

Xu Lip­ing, a se­nior South­east Asian stud­ies re­searcher at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said Bei­jing could con­sider Ramos’ sug­ges­tion and seek com­mon in­ter­ests with Manila.

Chen Qinghong, a re­searcher of South­east Asian and Philip­pine stud­ies at the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, said that Ramos’ re­marks send a pos­i­tive sig­nal and pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for the two coun­tries to re­build po­lit­i­cal trust and amend their re­la­tion­ship.

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