China urges Philippines to mend ties after row

Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping has told a visiting Philippine envoy that he hopes ties hurt by a territorial row can recover, state media said Saturday.

Vice President Xi told Philippine Interior Secretary Mar Roxas that tensions between the two countries had "eased" after a blow-up over a disputed island in the South China Sea, Xinhua news agency reported.

Trouble flared in April when vessels from the two countries became engaged in a stand-off over the rocky outcrop known as Scarborough Shoal. Both sides later agreed to withdraw their boats, defusing some of the tension.

"I hope this (situation) will not appear again and again, allowing bilateral relations to return to the track of normal development," Xinhua quoted Xi as telling the special envoy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino at a trade fair in southern China on Friday.

"China-Philippine relations have encountered some difficulties. However, through effective communication between the two sides, the situation has already eased," Xi said.

In Manila, a government statement quoted Roxas as saying the two had had "a frank and candid exchange of views".

It said both sides "expressed their desire to resolve outstanding issues while moving forward with their bilateral relations".

"(The) discussions were constructive and the talks were conducted in a cordial atmosphere," Roxas added.

The talks in the city of Nanning came after Aquino failed to secure a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Russia earlier this month.

Xi is widely expected to succeed Hu as leader of China's ruling Communist Party at an upcoming party meeting, then take over as president in March next year.

China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast amounts of oil and gas, is a rich fishing ground and is home to shipping lanes vital to global trade.

But the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the sea, some of them overlapping.

China is also locked in a territorial dispute with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea, which Japan administers and calls Senkaku but China claims and knows as Diaoyu.

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