Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tries to smooth over South China Sea tensions in meeting with China’s Xi Jinping



Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping, before the meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on Thursday.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tried to play down tensions over the South China Sea and restated his support for Beijing’s contentious global infrastructure and trade plan as he courted Chinese investment on his latest visit to the country.

Duterte is one of dozens of world leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing and on Thursday met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. According to state news agency Xinhua, Duterte emphasised that his country had an independent foreign policy in an apparent attempt to allay China’s concerns about his country’s long-standing alliance with the United States.

His effort to smooth over their differences follows a recent spat over China’s presence in Philippine-held waters and a pledge by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the US would come to Manila’s aid in the event of an “armed attack by China”.

Xi, for his part, urged Manila to take a long-term view of their relationship, which he said had entered a new stage of development, and said friendship was the only correct choice.