Duterte vis­its Chi­nese war­ships in his home­town

New Straits Times - - World -

DAVAO: Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte yes­ter­day vis­ited Chi­nese war­ships docked in his home­town and raised the prospect of fu­ture joint ex­er­cises, high­light­ing fast-warm­ing re­la­tions de­spite com­pet­ing claims in the South China Sea.

Duterte made his visit a day af­ter is­su­ing a chair­man’s state­ment on be­half of Asean that took a soft stance to­wards Chi­nese ex­pan­sion­ism and is­land build­ing in the wa­ter­way.

He praised the guided mis­sile de­stroyer Chang Chun as “very im­pres­sive.”

“It’s all car­peted in­side. It’s like a ho­tel,” he said af­ter be­ing pre­sented with a Chi­nese naval cap.

“This is part of con­fi­dence­build­ing and good­will and to show we are friends and that is why I wel­come them here,” Duterte said of the three-ves­sel flotilla that ar­rived in Davao City on Min­danao is­land on Sun­day.

On pos­si­ble joint ex­er­cises be­tween the Philip­pines and China, he said: “Yes, I said I agree. There can be joint ex­er­cises.”

He sug­gested they be held in the south­ern Philip­pines, per­haps in the Sulu Sea, where Mus­lim ex­trem­ists had been ac­tive.

Duterte has played down the Philip­pines’ ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute with China in favour of seek­ing greater eco­nomic aid and in­vest­ment from it.

But, in the state­ment is­sued af­ter the Asean sum­mit, Duterte took note of “con­cerns ex­pressed by some lead­ers over re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the area”.

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