After 'goodbye' to US, Duterte and Xi agree to resume South China Sea talks

Duterte reached Beijing on Tuesday with the aim of paving the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. Reuters

In China to push for friendly ties with Beijing after he repeatedly snubbed the US, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has clinched a promise from China on South China Sea talks, which haven't taken place between the countries in several years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Duterte have agreed to resume dialogue on their disagreement over the South China Sea, China's vice foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, said.

Duterte reached Beijing on Tuesday with the aim of paving the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance. The Filipino supremo's latest move comes after relations with long-time ally the United States deteriorated.

On 19 October, Duterte said that Philippine foreign policy was veering towards China - a statement which hundreds of Filipinos in Beijing cheered.

According to Reuters, Duterte said: "I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there...So time to say goodbye my friend."

However, while talking about China, Duterte said that ties between the two countries go back centuries. This statement came in spite of the fact that the relations between the countries roiled by the spat over the South China Sea.

"China has been a friend of the Philippines and the roots of our bonds are very deep and not easily severed," he told Xi in his opening remarks. "Even as we arrive in Beijing, close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship," he added.

Moreover, President Jinping appeared to be pleased with Philippines' approach. The Chinese leader told Duterte at Beijing's Great Hall of the People that China and the Philippines were brothers and that the two sides could "appropriately handle disputes".

"I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things," he said without mentioning South China Sea directly.

On 16 October, during a news conference in the city of Davao, Duterte promised to raise the controversial issue of the ruling in South China Sea during his visit to China.

"I will not bargain anywhere, we will continue to insist that is ours, the international tribunal decision will be taken up," said the President. However, he also said that there would be no "hard imposition" of it.

However, people in Philippines are sceptical about the country's maritime sovereignty and are worried that Duterte's desperation to forge close ties with China will hamper it.

On July 12, an international tribunal ruling rejected China's vast claims in the South China Sea and said that those claims have no legal basis. But China refused to accept or recognise the tribunal's decision.

On 30 August, Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay urged China to accept the ruling saying that Asian giant will be the loser. "We are trying to make China understand especially when the dust settles that unless they respect and recognise the arbitral tribunal, they will be the losers at the end of that day on this matter," Yasay told Reuters.

On 14 September, China lashed back at Philippines saying that their ties are at a turning point.