Duterte ready to face China on territorial issue

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte last night said he is willing to conduct bilateral talks with China, but within the context of the decision of a UN-backed tribunal awarding sovereign rights to the Philippines in the dispute over South China Sea.

“I will only bring the issue when we are together face to face. Because if we quarrel with them now and you claim sovereignty… they might just not even want to talk,” he said.

Duterte made the statement after he was asked if he would be bringing up the issue during his tour to ASEAN countries in the next few weeks.

He noted former president Fidel Ramos, as the country’s special envoy, has gained headway in thawing the relations between the two countries.

“Ramos is there paving the way for the good… of anybody or any other country. But we maintain good relations with China. Let us create an environment where we can sit down and talk directly,” Duterte said.

“That is the time I would say that, ‘we proceed from here.’ We proceed from this judgment,” Duterte said, referring to the award from the UN arbitration court in favor of the Philippines.

Last month, the arbitration court in The Hague ruled that China had no historic title over the South China Sea and had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights there. The decision infuriated Beijing, which dismissed the court’s authority.

But Beijing has been keen to get diplomacy back on track since.

Duterte, however, reiterated going to war against China to force the issue is not an option.

“What if (China) says, ‘I do not want to quarrel or even speak with you’? Can we do anything? Can we declare war? It is not an option,” he said.

“I would not be stupid to do that. It will only be a massacre for all... war is not an option nowadays.”

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