Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte has told China’s ambassador to Manila that he is willing to improve ties with Beijing, as Chinese diplomats urged nations outside the region to be hands-off and respect the efforts of the countries involved to resolve the issue.

Duterte, who will be sworn in on June 30, met on Monday in Davao City with Zhao Jianhua, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines. The meeting followed Duterte’s remark on Sunday that he is willing to have bilateral talks with China over the disputes in the South China Sea.

Zhao told reporters after the meeting that Duterte has expressed his willingness to improve and develop relations between China and the Philippines, and to strengthen bilateral cooperation to benefit the people of both countries.

Zhao, who was among the first ambassadors to meet with Duterte, said China and the Philippines are good neighbors and that China is looking forward to working with the new government to further enhance ties between the two countries.

Sino-Philippines relations worsened in 2013 after the Philippines unilaterally initiated a case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague over their disputes in the South China Sea.

Duterte said on Sunday that he wanted to cultivate friendly relations with China, and he confirmed that he was open to direct talks over the disputes in the South China Sea.

“If the ship of negotiations is in still waters and there is no wind to push the sail, I might just decide to talk bilaterally with China,” he said.

Jia Duqiang, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, “The good signs indicate that the new leadership of the Philippines may change its dispute-solving mentality and stance over the South China Sea.”

Source: Duterte ‘willing to improve ties’ with Beijing[1]|chinadaily.com.cn

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