Asia

Xi endures lonely red-carpet APEC welcome in Philippines

Xi endures lonely red-carpet APEC welcome in Philippines
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, left, walks with Chile's President Michelle Bachelet and Chinese President Xi Jinping to the official welcoming ceremony at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila on Wed, Nov 18, 2015. Photo: Pool via AP
Published: 7:05 PM, November 18, 2015
Updated: 7:13 PM, November 18, 2015
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PHILIPPINES — Philippine President Benigno Aquino promised to be the “perfect host” to all leaders attending a regional summit, but a long and lonely red carpet welcome walk for China’s Xi Jinping today (Nov 18) betrayed their nations’ icy ties.

Mr Aquino led the heads of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group along a red carpet laid throughout the summit venue in Manila to a stage where they gathered for an opening ceremony.

Mr Xi and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet were in the front row alongside Mr Aquino.

But Mr Aquino conversed only with Ms Bachelet, laughing and chatting amiably, leaving Mr Xi to plod sombrely alone through the sprawling convention centre with nobody to talk with.

The awkward walk, which lasted four minutes and seven seconds, ended when Mr Xi entered the hall for the opening ceremony and an unidentified official approached him.

China and the Philippines are locked in a bitter diplomatic row over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea.

The Philippines had feared Mr Xi may snub the summit because of the dispute.

When asked why Mr Aquino had not moved to talk with Mr Xi and whether it could be interpreted as a snub, Philippine presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma declined to respond directly.

“It was a long walk, your question might be speculative,” Mr Coloma said.

But Mr Coloma said the two leaders had before the walk held a “warm and cordial” conversation for two minutes, although this was not captured on video.

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