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Saturday, July 2, 2016, 11:07

Beijing hopes Manila will meet it 'halfway'


After new Philippine Cabinet members struck a conciliatory tone on the upcoming ruling in the arbitration case against China, Beijing said disputes with the Philippines could only be properly managed and resolved "through negotiation and consultation", not arbitration.

"The South China Sea arbitral case raised by the Aquino administration is illegal and invalid. … It is hoped the Philippines will meet China halfway and properly tackle relevant disputes," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference on Friday.

The administration of president Benigno Aquino III unilaterally initiated arbitration proceedings against China in 2013, leading to Beijing's refusal to be part of the arbitration.

The ruling by the Aribitral Tribunal affiliated with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will be announced on July 12.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who was sworn in on Thursday, told a Cabinet meeting not to "flaunt" a ruling if it is favorable, and said there should be "a soft landing" in disputes with China about the South China Sea, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay was quoted by Xinhua as saying he was "averse" to issuing a "strong" statement if the ruling is favorable.

Beijing has reiterated its objection to arbitration, partly because Manila's arguments in the case pertain to sovereignty and maritime delimitations, which China says are not subject to arbitration.

Xue Li, a researcher on international strategy studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China will not sit by if the Philippines calls on China to enforce the ruling.

Instead, dropping the result of arbitration and resuming two-way negotiations with Beijing to resolve disputes "may serve as a turning point in the icy two-way ties", Xue said.

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