BEIJING – China's foreign minister told his Philippine counterpart Thursday that Beijing is ready to provide more aid to the Southeast Asian country, as ties between the former antagonists continue to improve.
The relationship has increasingly overshadowed the Philippines' longstanding ties with the United States. Beijing this week donated emergency aid, sniper rifles and other weaponry to help the Philippine military drive out Muslim rebels who overran the southern city of Marawi.
At a news conference Thursday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the sides would "continue to improve our mutual trust and control our differences so as to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea."
The two countries have overlapping territorial claims in the strategic waterbody and feuded bitterly under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.
Duterte has pledged to steer Manila closer to Beijing while consistently blasting the U.S., which has criticized his brutal war against mostly small-time drug dealers and addicts.
Beijing has seized on that opportunity and Wang said the relationship "will definitely become wider and ... more solid. The road in the past was a dead end."
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also articulated a more Asian-centric approach.
"We should think less in national borders, less that we are Chinese, we are Filipino, we are Japanese, we are Korean, we are Thais or Indonesians, and start thinking that we are Asians and that peace and stability in our region will give us the leverage we need to be able to develop our nations and our people."
Separately, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian appeared to indicate that the shipment of arms delivered on Wednesday was only a start.
"The Chinese side has always opposed firmly any form of terrorism and opposes any person who carries out or supports terrorist activities under any name," Geng said at a monthly news briefing.
"We stand ready to work with regional countries including the Philippines to step up counterterrorism operations against violent terrorist threats," he said.
Despite Duterte's criticism of Washington, the U.S. military has been providing intelligence and logistical support for Philippine troops as they fight to clear Marawi of militants aligned with the Islamic State group.