China’s Commerce Minister Postpones Philippines Trip

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China’s commerce minister, Gao Hucheng was scheduled to arrive Philippines on Thursday to sign about 40 joint projects worth billions of dollars. But at the last moment he canceled the official trip.

The reason behind the postponement is not yet clear. The trip would have been an important development in a new era of engagement between the two historic rivals under President Rodrigo Duterte. He is one who admired the leadership of Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Hucheng informed the Philippines on Wednesday afternoon about the cancellation of the trip. When media try to asks him about the reason he remain mum.

The trip was postponed “due to scheduling reasons,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing.

“The two sides are currently actively carrying out relevant preparation work,” Geng told a regular news briefing, adding that the pacts signed during Duterte’s visit were being carried forward and implemented.

Just a day before cancellation, Yasay said as chairman of a meeting of Association of South East Asian Nations foreign ministers that ASEAN was unsettled and had “grave concern” about China’s move to militarize manmade islands, including installation of weapons systems, in the South China Sea.

A Philippine trade official said Manila could only speculate about why Gao had postponed the visit, and that trade and economic relations were separate to political disputes over the South China Sea.

Geng said on Wednesday Yasay’s comments were his own and did not represent the views of ASEAN. China hoped Yasay adhered to Duterte’s policy of seeking to improve ties with China, Geng said.

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