BEIJING - China on Friday welcomed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to send a special envoy to China for talks over the South China Sea dispute, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
Duterte on Thursday said he planned to send former President Fidel Ramos to China as special envoy to help start talks over the dispute, after an arbitration award was issued on Tuesday.
"After taking office, President Duterte has said several times that he is willing to properly handle the South China Sea issue with China, resume bilateral talks and improve bilateral ties," Lu said.
"China welcomes that President Duterte is willing to send special envoy to China to start talks. China has always been sticking to the way of properly handling relevant issues between China and the Philippines through bilateral talks, and we have never closed the door of dialogue with the Philippines. As long as the two countries adhere to the way of appropriately handling differences through dialogue and consultation, I believe a prospect of bright future for bilateral relations will open up," the spokesman said.
"We have expressed our position on the arbitration case many times. We will never accept any claim or action based on the award. We hope that both sides can go back to consensuses reached before, appropriately deal with relevant issues through dialogue and consultation, and make joint efforts for improvement and development of bilateral relations," Lu said.
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Duterte identified Ramos as the Philippines' possible special envoy to China during a testimonial dinner held at Club Filipino in San Juan.
"I would like to respectfully ask (former President Fidel Ramos) to go to China and start the talks," Duterte said.
Duterte made the offer after explaining his post-arbitration predicament.
"War? It is not an option. So what is the other side? Peaceful talks. I cannot give you the wherewithals now, I have to consult many people, including (former) President Ramos," he said.
"We gain nothing, but we also do not want to offend the United States. Why? Because we have identified ourselves allied with the Western powers. So there's an interest that we also should not forget, our interests and the interest of our allies," Duterte added.
According to Duterte, it is important to be "careful" in dealing with China so as not to create bigger problems not only for the Philippines, but for other countries as well.
"You know, there are a lot of complications there. Because now that the tribunal has ruled, 'yung arbitral decision says that, and if China would insist on a space domain, that you have to identify yourself before you can cross that vast sea there. America will not like it. "
"Alam mo 'pag nagsara 'yan [air space and sea lanes], lahat 'yan tataas, because even the insurance of the cargo and the boats, tataas. It would create another problem for our economy and somebody else's finances. So, careful tayo diyan," he added. - with a report from Reuters