Duterte to tell Xi about Asean leaders’ worry on militarized islands
DA NANG, Vietnam – Saying Southeast Asian leaders were “all worried” about it, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night said he will press Chinese President Xi Jinping on the issue of China “militarizing almost all” the islands it controls in the South China Sea.
The President said he will urge President Xi that they should “hurry” in coming up with a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea because Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) leaders were concerned about China’s placement of armaments in the islands it controls.
“I will tell him straight, you know Mr. President, the whole of Asean is worried about how we should behave in the seas that are now militarized, afraid that there might be a mistake and there would be shooting,” the President said in a press briefing.
“Those arms and they are not there for any other purpose. They are not decorations. They are there because China would need them. For what purpose? I really do not know,” he said.
“I have to carry the voice of ASEAN. I have to tell the truth that everybody is worried,” he added.
Mr. Duterte said he was not interested in going to war with China but he had to present the Asean position.
“I’m interested in the friendship but I said again I have to ask him questions reflecting he sentiments of the Asean countries,” he added.
Mr. Duterte said China must come up with a Code of Conduct because “the build-up, he does not allow (others to do) it; only him.”
“You know, we were looking intensely what was evolving in the Korean peninsula, the next photographs in intelligence came up (and they showed) that almost all the islands were militarized already. There were batteries,” the President said.
“That means those are arms that are poised to fly…So it is not wrong for me to tell China. Look, you have — You know, already placed the heavy artillery there. So it puts us in a wary, worried and wary because we are also using the passage,” he added.
Mr. Duterte said the “best way” to address the concerns of Asean leaders was to come up with a code of conduct.
“Up to where are we supposed and to what extent would be the use of the passage?” he said.
“The best way is to have a written code of conduct. So just you read it and you’d know that you are not crossing boundaries because as of now, it is a contested claim,” he added.
Mr. Duterte said that it was Beijing that asked for a bilateral meeting on Saturday afternoon, forcing him to delay his flight back to the Philippines by two hours.
“I don’t want to lose friendship to China. China is a good friend. China was there when we needed most their help (in Marawi),” he said.
“I think (the bilateral meeting) will be on the last day so that I’d have to postpone my departure about two hours because that is the last activity and China asked for it. And because we are friends, I am ready to listen to China,” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.