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Duterte on China: It's talk or fight

President Rodrigo Duterte waves to bid goodbye to well wishers before his departure from Laos on September 8, following his participation in the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits.  PPD/King Rodriguez, file

MANILA, Philippines — There are only two options in settling the maritime dispute against China - talk or fight, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday.

"There is not even a decisive move in the South China Sea. We have only two options there - we talk or we fight," Duterte told the Filipino community in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Duterte said that he prefers holding talks with China to settle the dispute over the South China Sea.

"Philippines to fight China? It will be slaughter. So we talk, we cannot match," the president, who has designated former President Fidel V. Ramos to begin back-channel talks with China, said.

The statement comes after Duterte hit the US for raising concerns on possible human rights violations in the government's war on drugs while having human rights violations within its own borders. He has also raised killings in Mindanao during the Philippine-American War and during its campaign to pacify the southern Philippines. 

The president earlier said that he is willing to temporarily set aside the ruling of an arbitral tribunal in settling the sea dispute with China.

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READ: Duterte wants to set aside arbitral ruling — for now

China has refused to acknowledge the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that it does not have legal basis for its nine-dash line claim over the contested waters. 

The arbitral tribunal also concluded that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea by constructing artificial islands in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, the US, which has military treaties with the Philippines, has expressed its commitment in ensuring that maritime disputes in the South China Sea will be resolved in a peaceful manner.

"The landmark arbitration ruling in July which is binding helped clarify maritime rights in the region. I recognize this raises tensions but I also look forward to discussing how we can constructively move together to lower tensions and promote diplomacy and regional stability," US President Barack Obama said in the ASEAN-US meeting in Laos on Thursday.

READ: Obama: US will continue to push for peaceful settlement of disputes

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