(MENAFN- Asia Times) MANILA –“I do not think anybody wants to go to war,”
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said following his meeting with Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco last week.
“We really should view this as a work in progress. It's a process,” Marcos Jr added, referring to the two sides' intensifying maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
The seemingly cordial meeting saw the two leaders agree on the need to establish guardrails in their bilateral relations. Both sides also made their respective redlines clear, with the Filipino president realistically acknowledging that“the problems remain and it is something that we need to continue to communicate [on with our Chinese counterparts].”
With few signs yet of big-ticket investments from the West , Marcos Jr is also intent on reviving frayed economic ties with China, which has yet to implement multi-billion infrastructure pledges in the Southeast Asia nation.
In many ways, the Marcos-Xi meeting mirrored the pragmatic undertones of the much-covered summit between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart.
Tellingly, the Filipino president immediately visited the US naval facility in Hawaii after the APEC Summit. There, the two allies finalized new defense deals, including on intelligence sharing and maritime security cooperation.
By all indications, Marcos Jr seems intent on enhancing the Philippines' bargaining position and overall deterrence capabilities vis-à-vis China, while keeping communication channels with Beijing intact.
By combining engagement and deterrence, the Filipino president hopes to reset his country's terms of engagement with the Asian superpower.
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