China raises concern over US military ops in South China Sea during Xi's visit
China has raised concern over the United States' planned military operations in the disputed South China Sea coinciding the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Philippines in November, Malacanang said on Tuesday.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua brought up the issue during his courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.
"China expressed concern over a naval military exercise that the United States will be conducting in the area about the same time that the Chinese president will be in the Philippines," he said.
CNN reported of a draft proposal from the US Navy recommending the US Pacific Fleet to conduct a series of freedom of navigation operations, such as sailing ships and flying aircraft, near China's territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait during a single week in November.
But American defense officials said there was no intention to engage in combat with the Chinese.
Roque said during the meeting, Duterte assured Zhao the Philippines would not take part in the US military exercise.
Asked if China asked the Philippines to tell the US not to pursue with the exercise, Roque said, "I do not know if I can go to further details, but the general consensus was we don't want anything to mar the visit of President Xi."
"So, I think the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) will do what it can to make sure that President Xi's visit will be fruitful and as productive as we would want it to be," he stressed.
He added that the Duterte administration wants Xi's visit to be "seamless."
Pressed if holding US military exercises in the South China Sea would affect XI's seamless visit in Manila, he said, "we hope not."
The Philippines and China are among the claimant countries in the South China Sea.
Roque said Zhao reiterated that China does not desire any military confrontation with any of the claimant states or with any other powers "because China is the biggest user of the West Philippine Sea and any military confrontation in the West Philippine Sea will have direct consequences as far as Chinese commerce is concerned."
The spokesman also said Zhao and Duterte discussed the possible joint exploration in the disputed waters.
"Both agree that the joint exploration in the disputed West Philippine Sea would be to each other's interest, both countries' interest," he said.
Xi will embark on a state visit to the Philippines in November after his attendance at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting in Papua New Guinea. Celerina Monte/DMS