Workers re-paint the sidewalks of a main street at Roxas boulevard, metro Manila, November 9, 2015, as part of a clean-up project in preparation for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting in Manila November 17-19. Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco
China is not aware of any plan to discuss the disputed South China Sea at an Asia Pacific leaders' summit next week in Manila, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Tuesday, amid tensions between China and the Philippines over the waters.
For its part, the Philippines said it had no plan to raise the issue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila from Nov. 17 to 19.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is to meeting of APEC's members which include the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Canada, and together account for 57 percent of global production and 46.5 percent of world trade.
"Everyone knows that APEC is primarily about discussing trade and financial cooperation in the Asia Pacific," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong told reporters in answer to a question.
"As far as I know, at this year's summit, there are no plans to discuss the South China Sea."
China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
A summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last week, attended by both the United States and China, failed to produce a final statement because the delegations could not agree on whether to mention the South China Sea dispute.
China has been particularly angered by a case lodged by the Philippines with an arbitration court in the Netherlands over the South China Sea. China says it will neither recognize nor participate in the case.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Manila for the first high-level talks between the two neighbors since 2011.
"They expressed hope the contentious issues will not be raised (at APEC) and we said we will endeavor on our side not to raise contentious maritime issues," Charles Jose, Manila's foreign ministry spokesman, told a news conference.
He said Manila would not raise the South China Sea issue because of the arbitration case in The Hague and because APEC was "not the proper forum".
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit the Philippines on Tuesday to discuss preparations for Xi's visit and ways to improve Beijing's relations with Manila.
Separately, China's Defense Ministry said that naval chief Wu Shengli had left for a visit to Malaysia and Indonesia. It gave no other details.
Malaysia, another claimant in the South China Sea, has taken an increasingly vocal position on the dispute of late.