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Duterte: Is it right for China to claim the whole ocean?


President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday raised the possibility of the United States getting involved in issues confronting the Philippines, China and other claimant-countries as regards their overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Speaking before business leaders at the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Duterte indicated that a third party should talk to both the Philippines and the Asian superpower.

"I just hope that China would come up with 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. There is so much animosity covered by sweet talking about how they desire to have an agreement," Duterte said.

"I love China, it has helped us a bit. But it behooves upon us to ask, is it right for a country to claim the whole ocean? Or we just leave the high seas as it was during the old days of international law," he added.

Excessive claims

Duterte had previously blamed the United States and his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, for not confronting China's excessive claims and buildup of military facilities on the artificial islands in the South China Sea.

The President on Thursday even slammed the US for alleged lack of word of honor as he recalled anew Washington’s decision in 2016 to halt the planned sale of weapons to Manila due to human rights concerns in connection with his war on drugs.

Manila used to support a multilateral approach and even took Beijing to arbitration as regards the overlapping claims in the resource-rich sea.

China does not recognize the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated Beijing's excessive claims to the South China Sea and spelled out the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

Bilateral vs. multilateral

Under Duterte, the Philippines and China have agreed to tackle their differences over the South China Sea bilaterally.

Duterte also refused to provoke the Asian power into war and instead pushed for stronger trade and economic relations as well as the conduct of joint exploration of oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea, the area of the South China Sea being claimed by Manila.

"I cannot afford a war with anybody. Not only with China. And the moment I send out my Marines beyond six kilometers, they will all be wiped out in one or two military strikes. We do not have that weapon," he said.

"If it is like fighting can erupt 25 percent maybe we can reduce it to 15. 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 America and China talking surety about territories. It will just end up in a shouting match."

The Philippines is currently the dialogue coordinator between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on negotiations for a Code of Conduct, which aims to prevent conflicting territorial claims from erupting into violent confrontations or worse, an economically-devastating major conflict.—NB, GMA News

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