BEIJING — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will make a state visit to China next week in the latest instance of reaching out to Beijing despite an ongoing territorial dispute, while questioning his country’s traditional ties with the United States.
The Oct. 18-21 visit will include talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang touching on ways to improve bilateral relations and deepen cooperation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday at a regular news briefing.
“China anticipates that President Duterte’s visit can help with enhancing political trust … dealing with disputes properly through dialogue and bringing the bilateral strategic cooperative relationship for peace and development back to the track of sound and steady development,” Geng said.
Without mentioning the dispute over waters and islands in the South China Sea, Geng said the Philippines was a “traditionally amicable neighbor of China.”
Duterte, who labels himself a socialist, has turned toward China amid a string of anti-U.S. pronouncements and a falling out with President Barack Obama, whom he has lambasted for criticizing his deadly anti-drug crackdown.
On Tuesday, he said he wouldn’t abrogate a defense treaty with the United States but questioned its importance and that of joint combat exercises, which China opposes. He also wants U.S. counterterrorism forces to leave his country’s south, saying their presence was inflaming restiveness among minority Muslims.
On Monday, he said that when visiting China he wouldn’t discuss sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, a fishing ground China seized in 2012 that is the crux of the China-Philippines territorial dispute.
That action prompted the government of Duterte’s predecessor to file a case against Beijing with an arbitration panel in The Hague, which in July ruled overwhelmingly in Manila’s favor. That enraged China, which had refused to take part in the proceedings or honor the outcome.
However, Duterte said he would ask China to allow Filipino fishermen to again operate in the area.
“I will just say, ‘Just let my brother Filipino fishermen go back there to fish,’ then we can talk,” he said in a speech.
In an earlier speech, he also said that when he meets with Xi, he will offer to open all areas of trade and commerce, along with land leases of up to 120 years for Chinese companies.
Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.