Chinese foreign minister visits Philippines amid rising tensions
Manila, Apr 21 (EFE).- Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang is set to arrive in Manila on Friday for a two-day official visit, amid rising tensions between the two sides over the renewed military alliance between the Philippines and the United States to counter China in South China Sea and around Taiwan.
Qin, who will land in the capital on Friday night, will meet his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo on Saturday during a visit aimed at continuing “high-level interactions” between Beijing and Manila that were kicked off during Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s China visit in January, the Philippine department of foreign affairs said in a release.
Bilateral ties have been at a low due to several reasons: for one, the territorial conflict for sovereignty over several islands in South China Sea has deepened between Manila and Beijing after recently the former alleged that Chinese ships were shining military lasers against its coastguard.
On the other hand, Beijing has strongly objected to the latest military agreement between Washington and Manila, announced on Apr. 3, which gives US forces access to four new bases in the Philippines, one of them situated just 400 kms away from Taiwan, which is at loggerheads with Beijing and is backed by Washington.
Another of the bases is close to the disputed islands in South China Sea.
China dubbed the agreement a “provocation,” and the Chinese ambassador in Manila, Huang Xilian, raised tensions further on Apr. 14 by warning that the Philippines should worry about the security of the over 150,000 Filipinos living in Taiwan.
Although Marcos Jr tried to ease the atmosphere on Friday by saying the comments were wrongly interpreted and that English was not the ambassador’s first language, on Friday a group of protesters demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in the Philippines over the purported threat by the ambassador.
The Philippine government on Friday also announced a bilateral meeting between the president and his US counterpart Joe Biden in Washington, set to be held on May 1, in which several economic and trade agreements will be discussed between the two sides.
The administration of Marcos Jr – in power since June 2022 – is engaged in a balancing act between the two superpowers, with a slight inclination towards their traditional ally, the US, after the last president Rodrigo Duterte inched closer to Beijing, Manila’s biggest trade partner. EFE