HONG KONG, Aug. 12 (UPI) — A Philippines presidential envoy met with Chinese officials, in what is being seen as a shift in alliances away from Washington and towards Beijing.
The meeting in Hong Kong Thursday of former Philippines president Fidel Ramos and Chinese government figures, including former Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Fu Ying, largely concerned the disputed South China Sea. Ramos said his trust-building mission was “to look for some old friends who have links to high officials in Beijing … to help pave the way, break the ice and rekindle the friendship that we had.”
The attempts to rekindle warm relations with China comes as the Philippines and the United States are involved in a diplomatic conflict. Newly inaugurated Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been cracking down on drug dealers and users in his country, which has brought condemnation from human rights activists as well as from the United States. Duterte used a homophobic slur on national television earlier this week to describe Philip Goldberg, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines.
“We have asked the Philippines charge to come into the State Department to clarify those remarks,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.
Trudeau also said the United States was concerned about Duterte’s methods of reigning in drug use in the Philippines: More than 4,400 people have been arrested while 600,000 have surrendered in fear of being killed.
“We are concerned by these detentions, as well as the extrajudicial killing of individuals suspected to be involved in drug activity in the Philippines,” said Trudeau.
In Hong Kong, a statement by Ramos indicated satisfaction with the meetings with the Chinese and an eagerness to hold additional talks.
“They value the long history of friendship of the two neighboring countries and the prospect of further cooperation for the sake of future generations,” the statement read in part.