Exclusive Subscriber+Member Interview – An old friend of Beijing returned to China this week in a move that harkens back to a time when Manila had a far more fraught relationship with Washington. Former Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte – known for his pro-China policies – as well as his concerns that his country could become a “graveyard” should it become entangled in U.S.-China tensions, sat down for a surprise meeting on Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The move prompted current Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to express hopes that Duterte address controversial Chinese moves in the South China Sea, though he also welcomed the increased communications between the two countries.

“It’s a very complex geopolitical reality, and we happen to be in a very strategic geographical location,” Philippines Ambassador to China, North Korea, and Mongolia, Jaime FlorCruz told The Cipher Brief in an exclusive interview just prior to Duterte’s visit. “We just hope that we won’t be forced to choose sides between the two superpowers in our region.”

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