Diplomatic saber rattling escalated Friday between China and The Philippines amid discussions over drilling rights in the South China Sea. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping threatened military action if Manila tried to apply an arbitration ruling and drill for oil in a contested part of the South China Sea.
The controversial Philippine leader Duterte responded to critics claiming he had not pushed hard enough against China after a pro-Philippine ruling was handed down last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
The Hague ruling makes clear Philippine sovereign rights in its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone to utilize offshore oil and gas fields, including the Reed Bank, 85 miles off the Philippine coast.
The Hague’s ruling also overrules China’s nine-dash line assertion on its maps denoting sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
Duterte and Xi met in Beijing on Monday and Duterte described the meeting in a speech given recently. Duterte says he told Xi, “We intend to drill oil there, if it’s yours, well, that’s your view, but my view is, I can drill the oil, if there is some inside the bowels of the earth because it is ours.”
Duterte states Xi’s response was a firm warning, “we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.”
He also said Xi had assured him that the arbitration ruling would be discussed in due time, but not at present. Duterte said China did not want to bring up the ruling at a time when other countries with a stake in the South China Sea, like Vietnam, might also decide to open cases against it at the arbitration tribunal.
Full Article: Reuters