BEIJING - China said Thursday that it was glad to see the improvement of relationship with the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte dropped his plan to visit a disputed South China Sea island, after Beijing's warning.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the relationship between the two countries had improved recently.
"As you can see, the situation of the South China Sea has improved recently. China-Philippines relationship has rapidly and improved in a healthy way. Of course we're happy to see the Philippines and China can further meet each other in halfway, can properly manage the disputes and push forward the cooperation to make it further benefit peoples from two countries," Lu said.
"The improvement (of the relationship between China and the Philippines) will definitely have positive meaning for regional peace, stability, prosperity."
Duterte last week announced his plan to raise the Philippine flag in Pag-asa Island and fortify it with barracks, setting off alarm bells.
Duterte, however, said Beijing warned him that "there will likely be trouble" if every head of state of contending parties will go to the disputed islands and plant flags.
The popular president is on a week-long state visit in the Middle East to facilitate trade and investments, and meet with Filipinos overseas.
The Middle East is the second largest source of remittances, with more than one million Filipino workers sending home $7.6 billion in last year, government data showed.
Duterte, who led the warming of ties with China, had blamed the United States for the current maritime tensions for not intervening to stop China building and arming artificial islands in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines will reinforce, but not militarize, areas in the South China Sea controlled by Manila to maintain the geopolitical balance, Duterte said on Monday.
China claims most of the South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.