Tue, Apr 11, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Duterte seeks to reassure Beijing on Spratly Islands

Reuters, MANILA

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday said his order to the military to reinforce areas in the South China Sea controlled by Manila was to maintain the geopolitical balance and assured China no “offensive weapons” would be placed there.

He said the Philippines wanted peace and friendship with China, but his country needed to bolster what territory it had in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) because “everybody’s grabbing” islands and reefs in the disputed waterway. Taiwan also claims the islands.

The president set off alarm bells on Thursday last week when he said he had ordered troops to occupy uninhabited islets and shoals that the Philippines claims in the Spratly Islands.

Philippine defense and military officials later said plans were to upgrade existing facilities and not occupy new territories.

“I’d like to address myself to the Chinese government... I ordered the occupation of the 10 or nine islands that are just near our shores because there’s a heightening of geopolitical issues and eventually maybe a violent low intensity war over here,” he told a news conference yesterday.

He said the Philippines would not engage in any military buildup, but indicated the US would seek to do so.

Duterte puts the blame for tensions in the South China Sea on Washington, for not intervening to stop China building and arming artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“If they fight each other, we will be hit. Everybody knows, the United States will be stockpiling their weapons there, and, they said they will not,” he said. “I do not want to get involved in a war between nations. I have extended my hand and friendship to the US government.”

“For the information of China, we will not place there any offensive weapons, not even one gun,” he said.

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