China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has urged the Philippines to avoid external “disturbances” to its China policy ahead of the upcoming talks between Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The virtual talk comes right after the Philippines finishes its military drills with the U.S.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Manila on Apr. 3 to prevent tension arising from their South China Sea dispute which might hurt China-Philippine bilateral ties. Wang also said that the maritime dispute should be put “in a proper place” within bilateral relations.

Wang’s remarks came as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would have an online discussion with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Mar. 8. Notably, the talk coincides with the Philippines’ biggest joint military exercise with the U.S. in the past seven years.

According to the South China Morning Post, Durete has withdrawn his initial “pivot to China” policy in recent months. The news outlet cited the Philippines ‘ 2016 international court ruling that rebuked Beijing’s expansive claims over nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Zhang Mingliang, a Southeast Asian affairs expert with Jinan University in Guangzhou, said Duterte’s change of attitude showed he was more a sharp-witted politician than a friend to China.

In recent months, both sides have exchanged heated talks over China’s alleged aggressiveness in the South China Sea dispute. China, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries, including Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan, have competing territorial claims in this region.

Last month, Manila summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest against a Chinese navy ship’s “illegal intrusion” of its waters and Beijing’s dangerous “maneuvering” in the South China Sea. China has occasionally denied such accusations, claiming that it has “sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the waters.

The U.S. and Philippines are conducting a joint military drill involving more than 5,100 US troops and 3,800 Philippines. This is the largest drill between the two countries since 2015.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Colonel Rafael Zagala said that the drill is to test the ability of both armed forces to work together if the Philippines is attacked or occupied by an external aggressor.

Colonel said the war drills involved a scenario where “the Philippines is attacked” by a third country.

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.