Duterte wary of US role in South China Sea dispute
President Duterte is not just afraid that a war in the South China Sea would crush the country—he’s also wary that American troops would take advantage and the conflict would spiral out of control.
Reiterating that he will not make a reckless move in the dispute, the President admitted his fears that an intervention by the United States might push the conflict in an unforeseen direction.
“It would be a reckless move if I send out just like Vietnam small vessels only to get a bloody nose at the end of the day. The response might not be that contained if I get to move because of the so many American ships here,” Mr. Duterte said.
“They might just want to take advantage and make a pretext that they are defending the Philippines, and it will go beyond our control,” he said.
The President made the remarks in a taped interview with Russia Today aired on Friday afternoon, during which he defended his stance of nonaggression against China, which claims the entirety of the South China Sea.
Mr. Duterte said he could not afford to adopt Vietnam’s more aggressive actions of confronting China’s intrusions into its exclusive economic zone.“The other side wants to do a more aggressive stance, and I cannot afford to do it. I cannot afford a stand where I would be drumming my war drums because we cannot afford it. It would annihilate the Philippines and so that is very dangerous,” the President said.
Last year, the Chief Executive said he would set aside the 2016 arbitral ruling favoring Manila’s claims in the South China Sea to allow for economic activity with China in the disputed waters.
On Friday, he reiterated that jumping into a war with China over the maritime dispute is “of no use to us,” as he expressed optimism that time would eventually heal the territorial conflict.
“A war with China at this time is of no use to us. We want us, well, to be friendly, improve our trade and commerce, and let time heal it. Tomorrow will take care of itself,” the President said. The President also defended his independent foreign policy of strengthening ties with China and Russia, which were nontraditional allies of the Philippines.
For decades, the Philippines has leaned on the United States, its longtime ally since the country’s days as an American colony.
Explore new avenues
Mr. Duterte said Moscow and Beijing “respect the sovereignty of the country,” unlike the United States, which he said was “totally lacking” in respect for other nations’ sovereignty.He maintained that he wanted to explore new avenues in trade and commerce with Russia and China, which he described as robust, adding that he would not “dovetail” under US foreign policy.
He railed against the US treatment of the Philippines as a “vassal state” and a “backward country” apparently stuck in medieval times that is “incapable of dispensing justice.”
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.