Duterte max­i­mizes in­ter­ests: an­a­lysts sug­gest

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By AN BAIJIE in Bei­jing and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington

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.

“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.

I want, maybe in the next two years, my coun­try free of the pres­ence of for­eign mil­i­tary troops. I want them out.” Ro­drigo Duterte Philip­pine pres­i­dent

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.

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