Duterte grounds jet ski vs China
DAVAO CITY—Presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he would settle the rows in the South China Sea with multilateral talks that would include allies United States, Japan and Australia, and the claimant nations against China.
Duterte, erstwhile mayor of this city, said China should respect the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around coastal states and team up with the Philippines to jointly exploit offshore oil and gas deposits.
“I would say to China: ‘Do not claim anything here and I will also not insist that it is ours.’ But then I will just keep a blind eye,” he told reporters, who waited with him for the results of an unofficial count that showed him winning with a hefty 40 percent of the vote.
“If you want joint ventures, fine, we can get the gas and the oil,” he said. “I believe in sharing.”
Tensions have risen sharply between China and the Philippines as an international tribunal in The Hague is preparing to deliver a ruling soon in a case lodged by Manila in 2013 that could undermine Beijing’s claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea. China has rejected the court’s authority.
Duterte, 71, had puzzled diplomats with his contradictory positions on dealing with China’s assertiveness and blockade of waters and islands long held by the Philippines within its EEZ.
During one presidential debate, Duterte said he would call for a dialogue with Beijing, but moments later added that he would ride a jet ski to the disputed Spratly islands occupied by China and plant the Philippine flag.
On Monday, Election Day, he said talks were needed among the claimant countries—the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and China—and the big powers like the United States, Australia and Japan.
“They would want a multilateral roundtable discussion, probably this year,” he said of the western countries.
“I do not think anyone is interested in going to war. Although we are allies with America, we will agree to, say, multilateral participation.”
In Beijing, China responded by saying it hoped to work with the new Philippine administration to resolve the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the AP reported.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Tuesday that Beijing hoped the Philippines would “meet China halfway” and take concrete measures to get ties back on a healthy track.
Lu said that while the two countries had a traditional friendship, bilateral relations had hit major setbacks in recent years, the causes of which he said were “known to all.” Reports from the wires
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