Yasay confirms plans for Duterte's visit to China by yearend

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The President may be setting foot in Beijing by yearend.

Foreign Affairs Sec. Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Thursday that there were indeed plans for President Rodrigo Duterte's trip to China within the year — but certain "clarifications" had to be threshed out first.

"We would like to make sure that the visit will be meaningful and fruitful," Yasay told CNN Philippines Chief Correspondent Pia Hontiveros in an exclusive interview. "(That) it would make us move forward insofar as the areas of concern we'd like to pursue with China."

The statement comes amidst a maritime row in the West Philippine Sea and a recent statement of Duterte that the main source of illegal drugs in the Philippines is China.

Related: Duterte eyes 'goodwill visit' to China

But Yasay added the trip of the President would not be subject to any conditions — saying that wouldn't be a good way to start things off with the Asian giant.

Read: FVR 'optimistic' about ice breaking China trip

Yasay said that there were also other areas of concern between the two countries like investments, infrastructure, cultural advancement and education exchange.

"But more importantly, we would like to see how we can move forward insofar as the South China Sea issue is concerned," Yasay said.

Yasay said officials were still talking about what would be the most ideal date for the trip.

"This is something we would like to push through."

War on drugs

Yasay said that it had been mentioned that the kingpin or drug lord in the country was directing operations from China.

He said this would be another matter that Manila was following up with Beijing so that the war against drugs will be taken cooperatively by the two countries. The cooperation would entail sharing of intel, equipment and even joint operations.

Wanted: Ambassadors

The Foreign Affairs Secretary also mentioned that he had submitted a shortlist to the President for ambassadors to China and the United States.

Yasay said he had given three names for each vacant post.

"I hope the President would act on this soon," Yasay said, saying that the positions would be filled by November.