Author: Dang Zheng
Posted on: CGTN, March 24th, 2017
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday it is in touch with the Philippines about a possible visit of a Chinese naval ship to the country, in the latest sign of warming bilateral ties.
Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters that military exchanges were an important part of relations between the two countries.
“Following the improvement in bilateral relations, China is willing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the Philippines in the relevant area,” Hua said when asked if the Chinese navy would visit.
“As for a Chinese naval ship visiting the Philippines, according to what I understand, the relevant sides in both countries are currently in communication about this,” Hua added, without elaborating.
On Thursday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he had invited China to send a battleship to visit.
The further improvement in ties comes after his visit to Beijing last year. Previously, Duterte has affirmed that the Philippines does not want to go to war with China in the South China Sea.
Duterte’s comments came amid concern in the Philippines that China could build several environmental monitoring stations in disputed waters, including on the Huangyan Dao, an island group in the South China Sea.
China has dismissed that as “not true”.
Premier Li Keqiang, who is currently visiting Australia, said that Beijing is not militarizing the body of water, and that the equipment installed on artificial islands is “primarily” for civilian use.
“Even if there is a certain amount of defense equipment or facilities, it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation,” Li told a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra.
“Because without such freedom, or without stability in the South China Sea, the Chinese side would be among the first to bear the brunt of it.”