MANILA, Philippines -- Wednesday's meeting between Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the new Philippine president, and China's top diplomat was to discuss long-standing disputes in the South China Sea. He also discussed foreign policy issues that included the U.S.-China rivalry.
Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, met with his counterpart in Manila wearing a traditional Filipino shirt. He later met Marcos Jr. at The Presidential Palace.
Officials from the Philippines did not immediately release any details about the talks. Officials from China have criticized the negative media attention given to Beijing's territorial conflicts by Chinese officials.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said that Wang told Clarita Carlos, National Security Advisor, in Manila, that Marcos Jr.'s election had "turned a new page" in China-Philippines relations and that the two peoples were full of hopes for the development bilateral relations. The statement didn't say whether the territorial disputes were resolved.
Wang stated, "Our only option is to be friendly and friendly again."
Wang arrived in Manila Tuesday night, as part of his Southeast Asian swing. He had previously been to Myanmar and Thailand. He will also travel to Malaysia and Indonesia where he will be attending a meeting with G-20 foreign ministers.
Wang's visit marks Marcos Jr.'s transition to the delicate foreign diplomacy issues which often compelled his predecessors to perform delicate balancing acts. After a May landslide electoral win, Marcos Jr. was sworn in to office last week.
In a televised news conference, he said Tuesday that he would talk to Wang about possible solutions to Manila's dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea. He also suggested to extend ties.
Marcos stated that China and the Philippines shouldn't be focusing on the West Philippine Sea. He used the Philippine name to refer to the disputed waters. Let's not forget about other matters. It will normalize our relationship."
He said that he had many suggestions for them and suggested possible expansions of cultural, educational, and military exchanges.
Although he did not give any specifics on how he would deal with the territorial issues, he indicated that he would follow Rodrigo Duterte's approach, which emphasized intensifying China-China relations.
Duterte, who took office in 2016, put disputes aside and sought to foster closer relations with China. Duterte ignored calls to insist that Beijing respect a 2016 landmark ruling by an U.N.-backed arbitral tribunal, which invalidated China's vast claims in the South China Sea based on historical grounds. The tribunal also found that China's land reclamations and actions against Filipino fishermen on a disputed island violated the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China refused to participate in the arbitration. It was initiated by Benigno Aquino III, Duterte's predecessor. The ruling was welcomed by the U.S. as well as other Western governments who have questioned China's muscle-flexing. Beijing continues to ignore it.
Nationalists and activists criticized Duterte for his stance, calling it a "sellout" that they claimed squandered the Philippines’ arbitration victory.
Marcos Jr. stated that President Duterte's engagement policy with China is the only option if he was talking about Marcos Jr. in January to DZRH radio station.
He said that war is not an option and that China had rejected arbitration. He also said that China would be made "your enemy" if the U.S. was brought in to mediate.
Jose Romualdez, Philippine Ambassador to Washington, said that Marcos Jr. was well aware of the pitfalls in the U.S.-China rivalry. He would promote relations with both global powers in a manner that would help the Philippine economic recover from two years' coronavirus pandemic lockdowns as well as cushion it from the global effects of Russia's invasion.
Romualdez said that these two elephants are always quoted as saying, "When they fight, they step on grass." Romualdez stated that we are the grass.
The first dilemma is which capital Marcos Jr. should see first.
President Joe Biden sent a formal invitation to him to Washington in a letter. Romualdez stated that Wang was expected to send Xi's invitation to Beijing.
Marcos Jr. plans to attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting on September where he could meet Biden for the first time. Romualdez indicated that a separate U.S. State Visit could be organized in the near future.