A United States senator has confirmed that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is no longer interested in bilateral talks with China, after the latter refused to include the tribunal ruling on West Philippine Sea among the topics.
United States (US) Senator for Connecticut Christopher Murphy confirmed this, following the courtesy call of United States Congressional Delegation to Duterte on Tuesday afternoon.
Murphy echoed Duterte’s statement that the arbitral tribunal’s decision was “non-negotiable.”
“[US delegation is] in Manila — just out of meeting with new Philippine President Duterte. [He] assured us he has no plans to negotiate with China over island dispute,” Murphy took to his Twitter account to share what had been discussed during the courtesy visit.
“We were first US elected officials to meet with Duterte. [He] says he will not trade territorial rights to China [and that the] tribunal decision [is] non-negotiable,” he added.
Apart from Murphy, Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, US Senator for Hawaii Brian Schatz, South Florida Representative Ted Deutch, Maryland Representative Donna Edwards, and California Representative John Garamendi also paid a visit on Duterte.
Also present were Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
When the international court ruled that China’s nine-dash line claim to most of the South China Sea, Duterte had asked his Cabinet officials to proceed with restraint and sobriety.
Duterte has also tasked former President Fidel Ramos to go to China and start the bilateral talks on behalf of the Philippines.
But everything went different after Yasay had met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the sidelines of the meeting of Asian and European leaders in Mongolia last week.
Yasay said Wang had agreed to have bilateral talks but only on issues “outside, or [in] disregard of, the arbitral ruling,” prompting him to decline the proposal.
“They said, ‘If you will insist on the ruling, discussing it along those lines, then, we might be headed for a confrontation,'” Yasay said in a television interview.
“But I really honestly feel that this is something they have to make on a public basis but I also sensed there was room for us to talk very quietly using backdoor channeling,” he added./Source Sunstar/