Ex-pres. Duterte meets with Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping in Beijing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — Former President Rodrigo Duterte met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday, with Xi welcoming the former Philippine chief executive at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, according to China's state media.

Reports said Duterte was joined by former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea, while Xi was with State Counselor Wang Yi, Communist Party of China (CPC) Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs member Ma Zhaoxu, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Sun Weidong, and Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying.

In a separate tweet, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Xi "appreciates the strategic choice Mr. Duterte made to improve relations with China during his presidency."

It said Beijing also acknowledged Duterte's "important contributions to friendly exchanges between the two countries".

"China values its relations with the Philippines and is ready to work with the Philippines to promote the steady and sustained growth of bilateral relations," the Chinese Foreign Ministry added.

There is no information yet on who extended the invitation to Duterte and in what capacity he is representing the Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it does not have official information on Duterte's China visit.

"We do not have official information on the visit of the former president," the DFA said in a message to reporters.

CONTEXT: Duterte is Xi's 'most important friend'

Duterte tried to reinvigorate the Philippine-China ties during his term.

Xi called Duterte as his "most important friend," according to a CNN Philippines 2018 report citing then Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

"Between us, we have made so many more friends. Actually President Duterte is the most respected and most important friend for President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people," Wang had said.

In 2021, Xi even sent a "thank you letter" to Duterte thanking him for the friendship and hospitality after his two-day state visit to the Philippines.

"I set great store by China-Philippines relations and value my personal friendship with you, Mr. President. I will work with you to strengthen political mutual trust and deepen practical cooperation in all fields so that the tree of China-Philippines friendship will grow more luxuriant and bear more fruits," Xi wrote.

The warming of Philippine-China ties during Duterte's time was amid issues in the South China Sea.

But both sides emphasized that the disputes in the South China Sea do not reflect the "overall" bilateral relationship of Manila and Beijing.