China asks Philippines' Aquino to call off visit in apparent snub

MANILA/BEIJING Thu Aug 29, 2013 6:19am EDT

Philippine President Benigno Aquino makes a speech before the lunch ceremony, during the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Myanmar International Convention Centre at Naypyitaw June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Philippine President Benigno Aquino makes a speech before the lunch ceremony, during the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Myanmar International Convention Centre at Naypyitaw June 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

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MANILA/BEIJING (Reuters) - China has asked Philippine President Benigno Aquino to call off a visit next week for the opening of a trade fair, Manila said on Thursday, in an apparent snub, but Beijing insisted it had never invited him in the first place.

Relations between the two countries have been soured by a bitter territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Claims by an increasingly powerful China over most of the sea have set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines. Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the waters and China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.

Manila has filed an arbitration case before the U.N. International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, questioning Beijing's claim as China deploys ships on two disputed shoals in the area.

"The president has decided not to proceed to the China-ASEAN Expo taking into consideration China's request for the president to visit China at a more conducive time," Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a text message.

"On the part of the Philippines, we will continue to abide by our principled position that bilateral relations can advance despite differences."

China's Foreign Ministry, in a statement given to Reuters, said Aquino had not been invited.

"China never extended an invitation to the Philippine president," it said, without elaborating.

The expo is an annual trade fair joining China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which the Philippines is a member.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi appeared to take a swipe at the Philippines when he spoke to reporters after a meeting with Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Beijing earlier in the day.

"As for the dispute of the Spratly Islands, they are not an issue between China and ASEAN," Wang said. "We do not believe that one individual opinion should replace the common position of all ASEAN countries, nor do we think that one individual (opinion) should compromise the overall interests of the two sides by pursuing their own selfish interests."

Hernandez told reporters China's request was conveyed to the Philippine government on Wednesday night, hours after Aquino announced his plan to make a 12-hour visit to Nanning on September 3 for the expo.

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo will represent the president in the September 3-6 event, where the Philippines is this year's "country of honor", Hernandez added.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato in MANILA and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Comments (7)
Free_Pacific wrote:
“As for the dispute of the Spratly Islands, they are not an issue between China and ASEAN,” Wang said. “We do not believe that one individual opinion should replace the common position of all ASEAN countries, nor do we think that one individual (opinion) should compromise the overall interests of the two sides by pursuing their own selfish interests.”

And now China thinks it speaks for ASEAN? The arrogance of this country has no limits. And if this trade fair is about ‘joining ASEAN and China’, how is this possible if China thinks certain ASEAN countries should be excluded (Or in Cambodia’s case, have it’s vote bought and become a trojan/puppet), or even worse, an attempt to humiliate it’s members is made?

China, chief warmonger and threat to peace in the Asia-Pacific.

Aug 29, 2013 6:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
fyus wrote:
Nansha islands are tiny and less than important. As long as China puts Hongkong firmly under control, the area will be free and pacific.

Aug 29, 2013 8:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Aquanut wrote:
I’d blow this off as mere ugly face of politics, nothing more.

Take no offense and forgive others of their disjointed snubs in time of fragility and frustration.

Give it some time. Hot heads will cool down and the brighter side of human nature will pop up and reveal it’s potential for humility and good works.

Wait for that moment with anticipation and not get tired or discouraged, attempting to chase a hardened heart.

Respects to all and to new opportunities.

Aug 29, 2013 11:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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