Posted at Feb 24 2017
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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday sought to calm down China after Philippine foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. issued statements regarding the South China Sea dispute that irked Beijing.
Earlier this week, Yasay said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was unsettled and had "grave concern" about China's move to militarize man-made islands, including installation of weapons systems, in the South China Sea.
Following Yasay’s comments, China's commerce minister decided at the last minute to postpone an official trip to the Philippines on Thursday to sign about 40 joint projects worth billions of dollars.
In a speech in Davao City, Duterte addressed the “misunderstanding,” between Yasay and Beijing, stressing that he continues to honor his agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease tensions between their countries.
“The problem is I think Secretary Yasay was misunderstood by the Chinese government. But let me assure everybody, I would like to assure China and this is what I have committed to do when I was there, that we will talk as friends, we cannot go to war because we cannot afford it,” Duterte said.
“And that as much as possible the bilateral relations between the two countries would be enhanced and improved and trade and commerce between the two countries greatly improved.” Reacting to Yasay’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the Filipino foreign affairs secretary’s remarks seemed to be “opinions of his own, not of the whole ASEAN group.”
Geng noted, Duterte has been working to improve ties between China and the Philippines which have been strained by the sea dispute.
"This has been widely endorsed and well-received. This fully proves that relevant policies by President Duterte meet the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples and contribute to regional peace and stability," Geng said.