BEIJING — President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines met with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, on Thursday, as part of a state visit that the United States is watching closely for further signs of a warming relationship.
No major agreements were announced, but the two sides said they would resume talks on their disputes in the South China Sea. That subject is of great interest to Washington as it copes with China’s expansion in the waterway and with recent statements by Mr. Duterte distancing the Philippines from the United States, a treaty ally.
Mr. Duterte was welcomed with full military honors at the Great Hall of the People here. He stood beside Mr. Xi on a canopied podium with lines of Chinese ceremonial troops before them, as a 21-gun salute resounded around Tiananmen Square.
“Though we come to your country close to winter, it is the springtime of our relationship,” Mr. Duterte told Mr. Xi in their talks afterward, according to reporters who were allowed to observe part of their meeting.
The two leaders agreed that China and the Philippines would resume talks on their South China Sea disputes after a hiatus of several years, China’s vice foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, said at a briefing. Mr. Liu did not say when those talks would start or what their focus would be.
But Mr. Duterte signaled Wednesday night that one obstacle to such discussions — a July ruling on the disputes by an international tribunal in The Hague, which was overwhelmingly in the Philippines’ favor — could be overcome. China has refused to abide by the court’s ruling, and Mr. Duterte said Wednesday that the tribunal’s decision would “take a back seat.”
Under Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, the Philippines cut off bilateral discussions of their conflicting South China Sea claims in 2012, after China seized the disputed Scarborough Shoal and drove Philippine fishermen from it.
On Thursday, the two sides agreed to establish a joint coast guard committee on maritime cooperation, a potentially significant step because Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been keeping Philippine fishing boats from Scarborough Shoal.
In a gesture to Philippine fishermen, Mr. Liu said China would provide assistance with aquaculture and the commercial processing of fish, an issue that Mr. Duterte has stressed. Mr. Liu said that the countries’ relationship was back to “full recovery” and that they would hold talks on broader defense and security issues, which had also been halted under Mr. Aquino.
“Both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relationship,” Mr. Liu said.
Mr. Duterte, who took office in June, has alarmed American officials by asserting that the Philippines would reduce its military cooperation with the United States, though he has stopped short of saying he would revoke their 70-year-old treaty alliance. Since arriving in China on Tuesday, he has expressed admiration for his hosts and told reporters that America would no longer have the prominent role in the Philippines that it does now.
“Time to say goodbye, my friend,” Mr. Duterte said of the United States on Wednesday, speaking to a group of Philippine citizens living in China. “I will not go to America anymore,” he added. “I will just be insulted there.”
On the investment front, China agreed to finance infrastructure in the Philippines, lifted the embargo on the import of tropical fruits, including mangoes, from the country and said it would start encouraging its tourists to visit the Philippines after removing a travel advisory.
A delegation of more than 300 Philippine businessmen who joined the state visit met with Chinese leaders Thursday afternoon and were eager to complete deals, said George T. Barcelon, the president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Bank of China was sponsoring a seminar for the delegation, he said, and would start offering financing for small- and medium-size enterprises.
On Wednesday, a large contingent of the Philippine delegation visited Huawei, one of China’s biggest telecommunications providers. That visit suggested that the company might be invited to enter the Philippine market, where there are only two providers and broadband quality is poor.
But Mr. Duterte told reporters that he would not raise joint exploration with China for oil and gas in the South China Sea, a venture that Beijing would like.
He would have to consult with Parliament before broaching the possibility, he said.
Mr. Duterte is expected to address Chinese business leaders and may visit a drug rehabilitation center in Beijing on Friday, to demonstrate his support for China’s tough policy on drug offenders. Unlike officials in the United States and other Western countries, China has refrained from criticizing Mr. Duterte’s deadly campaign against drugs, in which about 1,400 people have been killed by the police and hundreds more by vigilantes.
The Chinese have gone out of their way to offer Mr. Duterte wide access to their top leadership. Later Thursday, Mr. Duterte was set to meet with Prime Minister Li Keqiang and two other members of the Chinese Communist Party’s all-powerful standing committee. By the time he leaves China, Mr. Duterte will have met with four of the committee’s seven members, including Mr. Xi — an unusual honor for a visiting leader.