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Marcos, China's Xi meet, ‘talk a bit about regional issues’

BANGKOK — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping met on Thursday but “details that need to be discussed” between the two parties will instead be taken up next year.

According to Marcos, his bilateral meeting with Xi covered mainly his state visit to China scheduled in January.

“We spoke a little bit about regional issues, but mostly about the plans that I have for the state visit that I will be undertaking to China in the first week of January," Marcos said after the bilateral meeting.

"So whatever details that need to be taken up between the Philippines and China will be taken up then,” he added.

Marcos said bilateral meetings were "really just a kind of getting-to-know-you and that was the same with our meeting."

According to China's CCTV state broadcaster, at the meeting Xi told Marcos that the strength of bilateral ties hinged on stable relations at sea, referring to disputes over areas of the South China Sea, which is claimed nearly in its entirety by China.

CCTV said Xi also told Marcos that the two countries need to stick to amicable negotiations to resolve differences over South China Sea issues.

The meeting took place past 5 p.m. (6 p.m. Philippine time) on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting where Marcos is set to have at least six bilateral meetings.

“The two leaders discussed strengthening and expanding the Philippines-China relationship particularly in the areas of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and people-to-people connections,” the Office of the Press Secretary said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Marcos said he hoped to discuss issues regarding the West Philippine Sea with Xi during the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia, as he said it would be “impossible” to talk to China without any mention of the topic.

He then met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, where the two parties agreed to deepen ties.

Marcos said he also told Chinese officials to follow international law when it comes to the South China Sea.

At the bilateral meeting, Marcos was with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had been described by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi as an “old and good friend of the Chinese people.”

“For now it was a very pleasant exchange. He [Xi] was also very surprised to meet his old friend, [former] President GMA, who accompanied me,” Marcos said.

“They had a few minutes of recollecting the meetings that they have had which I think helped the tone of the meeting, so I am looking forward to January the state visit to China,” he added.

Prior to the meeting, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said that among the topics expected to be discussed during the bilateral meeting are trade, investments, and sovereignty issues.

Next week, US Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Palawan in a trip that will make her the highest-ranking US official to visit the island chain adjacent to the Spratly Islands. China has dredged the sea floor to build harbors and airstrips on the Spratlys, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. — with a report from Reuters/NB/BM, GMA Integrated News