China warned Philippines: Don't force us to go to war with you
China has threatened that it will go to war with the Philippines if it would insist on the arbitral ruling, President Rodrigo Duterte disclosed on Friday.
In a speech in Davao City before the members of the Philippine Coast Guard, Duterte said contrary to the criticisms of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, he raised with Chinese President Xi Jinping the ruling of the arbitral tribunal favoring the Philippines and invalidating China's historic right in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte did not mention which occasion he brought up the issue with the China. He went to China in October 2016 for a state visit and last week when he attended the Belt and Road forum.
Duterte said in the presence of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, he told the Chinese leaders part of the South China Sea "is ours and we intend to drill oil there.”
"The answer to me, 'we are friends. We don't want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we will go to war'," Duterte said.
"He told me, ‘Well, if you force the issue, we’ll be forced to tell you the truth.’ ‘So what is the truth?’ ‘We will go to war. We will fight you'," he said, adding "what else would I say. That's it."
He said the Philippines could not go to war alone with China.
"I do not have the cruise missiles. I have the fast boats, the frigates. But that’s about it," he said.
Duterte wondered if the United States and the United Nations would join the Philippines in the war.
"So we seek the help of America, a concerted effort to go to the Member States of the United Nations? Are they willing to fight? Because if they are willing to fight, we are. But if it's just us, why would I do that? It will result in a massacre and it will just destroy everything," he said.
Duterte said when China started to build structures in the South China Sea, the previous administration should have sought the help of the US.
The Chinese activities should have been "nipped in the bud," he said.
"But just instead of filing a case, the Philippines should have called America for an urgent conference and the rest of the ASEAN countries claiming a part of that vast sea there to discuss what we will do and to cut it...nip in the bud," he said.
A transnational task force could also be organized and could have confronted China for digging in the South China Sea, Duterte said.
"As a matter of fact even without the arbitral ruling or anything at all, the constant law of the sea is not you cannot build a man-made structure. Irrespective of whatever laws that you’d want to invoke," he added.
China has made seven artificial lands in the disputed South China Sea.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimants in the disputed waters are Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Celerina Monte/DMS