Philippine President Benigno Aquino says he hopes to see progress in his country's lingering territorial dispute with China following Beijing's leadership transition next month.
Aquino told reporters Wednesday that "domestic pressures" in China had complicated efforts to resolve the standoff over a group of uninhabited islets, which flared up in April.
"There will be pressures leading up to the transition. We hope that these domestic pressures in China will be lessened after the transition so that we can have more room to negotiate and to discuss in more reasonable terms and less ultra-nationalistic tones," he said.
President Aquino says there has already been a warming of relations following talks and the Philippines pulling its ships out of the Scarborough Shoal.
"There seems to be a gradual, very gradual, warming up -- I want to be very precise. So we are hopeful that this gradual warming up will be really warmed up by the time of the transition. So we are taking a wait-and-see attitude," Aquino stated.
The two countries' deputy foreign ministers are meeting Friday to discuss how to improve ties.
So far, the two sides have made little progress on solving the issue of who has sovereignty over the tiny group of islets, which sits among strategic fishing grounds and potential energy deposits.
China's Communist leaders have been busy preparing for a sensitive once-a-decade leadership transfer, which begins with a key party meeting on November 8.
Many of China's neighbors have accused it of being increasingly assertive in defending its claims in the South China Sea. Beijing claims nearly all of the 3.5-million kilometer area, which is also claimed in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.