Philippine President Corazon Aquino, beleaguered at home by a growing communist insurgency, met the top leaders of the world's largest communist country Friday and received renewed personal assurances that they would do nothing to help the rebels threatening her government.
Aquino's press secretary, Teodoro Benigno, said the assurances came during a two-hour meeting with Chinese Premier Li Peng in the Great Hall of the People."The Chinese will not interfere in your internal affairs and will not support the Communist Party of the Philippines," Benigno quoted the premier as telling Aquino.
The Philippine Communist Party and its military wing, the New People's Army, which celebrated its 19th anniversary last month, began as "Maoist" revolutionary organizations in the mold of the late Chinese revolutionary Mao Tse-tung.
Despite those ties, the Chinese have let it be known tacitly for more than a decade that they refuse to support the rebels. It is part of their longstanding policy of "non-interference" in the internal affairs of foreign countries, and it was first expressed directly to the Philippines in 1975 when the Philippines and China established diplomatic relations.
Aquino's vice president, Salvador Laurel, received similar assurances from other top officials in 1986 when he visited China.
Still, there have been lingering fears for years in the Philippines that China might change its position or secretly try to circumvent it.
The Chinese also went out of their way to give Aquino a warm welcome, greeting her with a 21-gun salute outside the Great Hall of the People before ushering her into private meetings with Li and new President Yang Shangkun.
Less reassuring was the attitude of both sides toward another longstanding problem the sovereignty of a string of islands in the South China Sea. The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan all claim ownership of some or part of the islands, which are known by different names but generally called the Spratlys.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus has angered Chinese officials in recent months by insisting the Philippines retains sovereignty of several of the islands, where Filipino troops are stationed. Members of the Philippine Congress proposed a bill last December to legalize claims to the islands.
Chinese officials responded by saying such moves would only "obstruct the development of Sino-Philippine relations."
Several top members of Aquino's delegation to China acknowledged that the Spratly issue was "very explosive." They said both sides had basically agreed to disagree.
Benigno said the issue of U.S. military bases in the Philippines came up during a meeting between Manglapus and new Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. However, Benigno refused to give details of the discussion.
China is known to support quietly the presence of the U.S. bases in the Philippines as a means of countering the growth of Soviet forces in the region.
Talks are under way in Manila between U.S. and Filipino officials on the amount of U.S. aid to be paid for the continued use of the bases through 1991.
Aquino is scheduled to end her 21/2-day visit to China on Saturday after meeting top Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.