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To a roomful of diplomats and businessmen from all over Southeast Asia, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave a telling detail of his recent bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Speaking on Sunday night, November 12, during the launch of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) business mentorship program, Duterte said Xi made him wait two hours for their meeting the previous night.
“I had to wait for two hours because President Xi Jinping was busy with the other countries talking,” said Duterte.
The Philippine leader was the last head of government Xi met with on Saturday, November 11, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.
“We had the last appointment for him before I took off,” Duterte said.
Whatever his sentiments about the timing of the meeting, Duterte earlier said that day he thought his talk with Xi was among the “most productive” meetings he had on the sidelines of the APEC Summit, aside from his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During his Sunday evening speech, Duterte again spoke of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute, which he discussed with Xi during their meeting.
He stressed that now is not the time for aggressive action on the dispute.
“The South China Sea is better left untouched. Nobody can afford to go to war – either the big powers, Russia, China, or the US. It can ill afford a violent confrontation,” said Duterte.
“The only way to go on is cooperation and so I would say that we should open our doors to everybody,” he added.
Xi also supposedly told Duterte that he is not interested in waging war against any country claiming parts of the South China Sea.
“We agreed and he agrees: ‘If you are President Duterte and you want to preserve the lives of the Filipinos, then as President of China, I want to save lives. I do not waste the lives of my countrymen for a useless war that cannot be won by anybody,'” said Duterte, relaying Xi’s supposed words.
In previous remarks about their bilateral meeting, Duterte said Xi downplayed China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and gave assurances his country respects the right of others to freedom of navigation.
Duterte had promised to be “frank” with Xi and relay to him the concerns of ASEAN countries given his role as chairman of the regional bloc this year.
The Philippines recently scrapped plans to construct facilities on one of the sandbars near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, following a protest from China. – Rappler.com