Manila opens backchannel with Beijing | News | DW | 12.08.2016
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Manila opens backchannel with Beijing

A former Philippine president says he met with a Chinese former senior diplomat during a trip to Hong Kong aimed at improving ties. Relations have been strained over a maritime dispute in the South China Sea.

The Philippines special envoy Fidel Ramos said Friday that Manila wants formal discussions with China to explore pathways to peace and cooperation after a meeting with a former Chinese deputy foreign minister.

The most contentious disputes were not addressed directly but were more a confidence-building measure, according to a joint statement released by Ramos and Fu Ying, a former top Chinese diplomat.

"They discussed, in their private capacity, the way forward in the spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood for peace and cooperation between the two countries," the joint statement said.

Relations have been tense following last month's international ruling that said China's territorial claim to most of the South China Sea was invalid. The Philippines had brought the case to the UN-backed tribunal.

Manila's charm offensive

Fidel Ramos Ex Präsident Philippinen

Ex-President Fidel Ramos - a longtime advocate of closer Philippine-Chinese ties - was sent as a conciliatory envoy by Manila.

Ramos said neither side asserted competing claims in the South China Sea.

"There was no discussion on that particular aspect except to mention equal fishing rights," Ramos told reporters. But he added there would be a second round of discussions with China.

"As to where this will take place we don't know yet. We have to go back to Manila to find out the latest developments on the official side," Ramos said.

An arbitration court in the Hague ruled on July 12 that China had no historic title over the strategic shipping lanes and had breached the Philippines' sovereign rights there.

The decision infuriated Beijing, which dismissed the court's authority to rule on the matter. Ramos was president of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.

jar/kl (Reuters, AFO)

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