China cosies up to the Philippines
RELATIONS between China and the Philippines are improving “beautifully” under President Rodrigo Duterte, Beijing’s envoy has said as Mr Duterte warms to China and Russia following US criticism of his bloody war on crime.
Ambassador Zhao Jianhua offered effusive praise for Mr Duterte in a speech at an embassy reception yesterday, saying China “firmly supports” his anti-drugs campaign that has prompted condemnation of alleged extrajudicial killings.
Mr Duterte has rejected the criticism, including by long-time security ally the United States, and said he would seek closer economic ties with China and Russia.
“The clouds are fading away. The sun is rising over the horizon and will shine beautifully on the new chapter of bilateral relations,” Mr Zhao said.
Mr Zhao said the two neighbours had been engaging in “friendly interactions” since Mr Duterte took office nearly three months ago.
This was in stark contrast to fraught ties under Mr Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino, whose government lodged a case at an international tribunal in 2013 seeking to outlaw Beijing’s territorial claims over most of the South China Sea.
In July the tribunal rejected most of China’s claims as well as its extensive island-building in disputed waters.
“The Chinese side fully understands and firmly supports the Duterte administration’s policy that [prioritises] the fight against drug crimes,” said Mr Zhao, adding China would assist in the drug war.
Mr Zhao also said China would increase investments in infrastructure in the Philippines, as well as trade and tourism.
The Philippines, a former American colony, had until Mr Duterte been one of the United States’ oldest allies in Asia.