President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) attend a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / THOMAS PETER
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) attend a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / THOMAS PETER

Beijing : In a major diplomatic victory for China, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced “separation” from longstanding ally the US, as the two neighbours agreed to “temporarily put aside” their differences over the South China Sea (SCS) and signed 13 agreements, reports PTI.

  “I announce my separation from the United States,” he said to applause at a business meeting in the presence of Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli at Great Hall of the People.

 The comments by the Philippines mercurial leader may end Manila’s strategic ties with Washington against China over  its maritime dispute with Beijing. Duterte’s comments came hours after he met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping who told him “We’re neighbours and blood brothers”.

  Welcoming Duterte, who decided to visit China after his bitter spat with the US over war on drug smugglers, Xi asked him to put aside the SCS dispute temporarily to improve bilateral relations.  “This truly has milestone significance for China- Philippines relations,” Xi said, praising Duterte’s landmark visit to China to reset ties which have been damaged by the SCS dispute.

  Beijing claims almost all of the SCS despite partial counter-claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan. An international tribunal struck down China’s claims in July, saying Beijing has no “historic rights” in the SCS.  China had rejected the ruling as “null and void” and said it “neither accepts nor recognises” the verdict of the tribunal established at the request of the Philippines. During Thursday’s meeting, Xi suggested that the two sides “temporarily put aside” the disputes, and learn from the “political wisdom” of history when the two nations had successfully kept their differences in check through talks, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

  “As long as we stick to friendly dialogue and consultation, we can frankly exchange views on any problem, manage differences, discuss cooperation, and temporarily put aside what is hard to reach by consensus,” Xi said. “We have no reason to take a hostile attitude or confront each other. 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,” Xi told Duterte at the Great Hall of People.

Duterte said improved and developed relationships would benefit both peoples. “Even as we arrive in Beijing close to winter, this is the springtime of our relationship,” he said. The two sides signed 13 agreements including cooperation between coast guards of the two countries which had confronted each other over the years to ascertain their maritime rights over Scarborough Shoal which was seized by China in 2012.

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