President Rodrigo Duterte met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping Thursday, state media said, as the Philippines’ leader seeks closer ties with the Asian giant while blasting his US allies.

Duterte is in China for a four-day trip that is expected to confirm his tilt away from Washington and towards Beijing’s sphere of influence.

Rodrigo Duterte xi jinping
Rodrigo Duterte and Xi Jinping. Photo: Wikicommons.

The two leaders were to hold official talks and sign a “series of cooperation documents”, the official Xinhua news service reported.

Duterte is hoping to take advantage of Beijing’s deep pockets to score a raft of trade and infrastructure deals.

His recent rhetoric blasting the US and President Barack Obama and promising to sideline a territorial dispute over the strategically vital South China Sea has been welcomed in Beijing.

During a speech addressing the Filipino community in Beijing Wednesday, the firebrand president said the Philippines had gained little from its long alliance with the US, its former colonial ruler.

barack obama
Barack Obama. Photo: Justin Sloan via Flickr.

“Your stay in my country was for your own benefit. So time to say goodbye, my friend,” he said, as if addressing the US.

He also repeated his denunciation of Obama as a “son of a whore”.

China, he said earlier, was “good”. “It has never invaded a piece of my country all these generations.”

Foreign policy under Duterte has dramatically shifted from that pursued under predecessor Benigno Aquino, who took Beijing to an international tribunal over its extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea — where it has built artificial islands capable of hosting military facilities — and won a resounding victory.

The move infuriated Beijing. But Duterte, who took office in June shortly before the tribunal ruling, has made a point of not flaunting the outcome.

He has also suspended joint US-Philippine patrols in the South China Sea, and has threatened an end to joint military exercises.

Disputed islands in the South China Sea
Disputed islands in the South China Sea. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

The South China Sea is of intense interest to Washington and it has repeatedly spoken out on the various territorial disputes between China and its neighbours over the strategically vital waters.

In 2012, China seized control of Scarborough Shoal, a fishing ground in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Tensions have risen between the US and China over Washington’s so-called “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific, a move that Beijing says is intended to contain it.

Duterte was scheduled to meet with Premier Li Keqiang later in the day.

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