BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- China expects an early visit by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the two countries are in close communication over the issue, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.
According to media reports, Duterte is planning separate visits to China and Japan next month, which will be his first trips outside southeast Asia since assuming office on June 30.
In response to a question that whether the China-Philippine disputes on South China Sea will affect the visit, the spokesman Lu Kang told a routine press briefing that as long as the two sides have the will to settle their disputes through consultation, there are no difficulties that can not be overcome.
Tension between China and the Philippines has risen in recent years over the South China Sea issue, especially since the former Philippine government initiated a case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013. An ad hoc arbitral tribunal set up at Manila's request issued a highly controversial and biased award in July, denying China's long-standing historical rights in the South China Sea.
China has reiterated that it will not accept any proposition or action based on the decision.
Lu said countries in the region have agreed to adhere to a dual-track approach on the South China Sea issue, with disputes to be resolved peacefully through direct negotiations between parties concerned, and to work together to maintain peace and stability.
"We hope countries outside the region will respect the consensus reached by China and countries surrounding the South China Sea," Lu added.