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Duterte meets ranking Chinese diplomat

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte met with a ranking Chinese diplomat Tuesday evening, January 17, a day after the Philippines revealed it had filed diplomatic protests against the Asian superpower over its installation of weapons on disputed islands. 

However, the meeting between Duterte and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin is a mere "courtesy call," according to Malacañang.

Liu is in the country for political consultations and to discuss bilateral relations with Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. 

"His request for an audience with the President is simply a courtesy call and exchange of pleasantries. It cannot involve discussions of substantive issues that will undermine the purpose and process of our political consultations," Malacañang said in a statement.

The Duterte administration is forging better relations with China following Manila's filing of an international arbitraton case during the past administration. The case successfully junked China's sweeping claims over the South China Sea. 

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it doesn't mean the country will abandon its claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as feared by administration critics. 

"The Philippines will continue to assert its sovereignty over disputed territory in the South China Sea while remaining consistent with the efforts of President Duterte to revitalize longstanding ties with China," Abella said. – Rappler.com