"China has obviously made it clear that although it is a positive thing that the Philippines wants to develop bilateral relations and trade, Beijing will not consider its interests in the South China Sea to be a bargaining chip," Fomicheva, an expert at the Institute for Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.
Earlier this week, China abruptly postponed a visit of its Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng to the Philippines. The official was supposed to sign approximately 40 bilateral deals worth billions of dollars as relations between two former rivals have become increasingly warm.
Nevertheless, "China is interested in enhancing its influence in ASEAN. Beijing has already managed to do this with Laos and Cambodia. It has been more challenging in Thailand's case due to Bangkok's years-long ties to the United States," she said.
The Philippines is also a difficult case for China since the country did not have a working relationship with Manila.
"However, China is interested in winning the Philippines over," the expert noted.
"If the Philippines has indeed altered its stance on the South China Sea and the Philippine foreign minister made it clear in his remarks, then this could have had an impact on the visit. However, China cannot change plans which had already been approved because of an isolated remark. I cannot claim that there is a direct link between the commerce minister postponing his visit and comments made by the Philippine foreign minister. We should wait for the Beijing's official stance on the issue."
Geng Shuang also described Yasay's remarks as "baffling and regrettable," expressing hope that the Philippine foreign minister would "speak and act cautiously".
Meanwhile, on Friday, the Chinese government announced that Zhong Shan was appointed the new commerce minister, replacing Gao Hucheng. The move is part of a reshuffle which has taken place ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, a major event held twice a decade.
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