Duterte to China: Is it right for a country to claim a whole ocean?
"Is it right for a country to claim a whole ocean?"
President Rodrigo Duterte posed this question to China in his speech at the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia on Friday in Tokyo.
Duterte reiterated his call to China to fast-track the approval of a code of conduct in South China Sea, and not two years away as what he has heard.
"China Sea, it adds stress. We are friends with China. I'm the moderator country for China and ASEAN. The last thing I hear, the conduct of the sea is just about two years away. I would not impose my own last word," he said.
"But if I get a chance to visit Beijing again, I'll try to talk to President Xi Jinping and the longer it takes for the issue to be there, it is always a flash point of trouble," he said.
"And not only that, because of the absence of the (code of) conduct of the sea, France, Britain, America are testing the waters. This is not a testing of waters of temperature, my God. It is really testing who can fire the first shot," Duterte said.
Duterte admitted he was "sad and bewildered," but not angry, because he could not do anything.
"But I just hope China would come up with a conduct of the sea soon and somebody should reach out to the United States, because if you leave it to them to talk, nothing will happen," he said.
Duterte suggested that a higher ministerial level could talk about trying to prod China to shorten the timeline in coming out with a code of conduct and to reduce the possibility a fighting erupts in the disputed waters.
"But there has to be somebody not identified with any country that China does not like, because there will never be a sort of an American-China talking seriously about territories. It will just end up in a shouting match," Duterte said.
Duterte acknowledged there is much animosity "covered by sweet talking about how they desire to have the agreement."
"But nobody is pushing and the intrusions as far as China is concerned, it's in there," he said.
China has built artificial islands in the South China Sea, including in areas within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Duterte, who had been invited by Xi to China several times, said he loves Beijing because it has "helped us a bit."
"But it behooves upon to ask, 'Is it right for a country to claim a whole ocean?' Or we just leave the high seas as it was during the old days...," he said.
Duterte said "a lot of lousy politicians" in the Philippines wanted him to push for the arbitral ruling, which Manila won.
But he reiterated that the moment he insisted on the ruling and he sends Filipino troops to the disputed waters, they could easily be wiped out by the Chinese force.
He said the government would instead prioritize food, education, and hospitalization of the Filipinos.
"My country is very small. It has progressed little over the years. I do not know why but I cannot afford war with anybody, not only with China," Duterte said.
"We need to buy (weapons) but there are some priorities like food, education, hospitalization. There's never enough so I cannot go on some sort of adventure to fight not my war but what the claimant precipitated by a geographic tension," he added.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other Southeast Asian countries, such as Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan, have been claiming whole or in part the South China Sea. Celerina Monte/DMS