DA NANG, Vietnam—President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will not be asking for any military assistance from Washington to help wage war against Beijing amid the growing concerns in the region on the continued Chinese militarization of the disputed waters.
“Well, I told them what kind of help [we need]…[but] no, I will not ask for military help to wage war against China,” Duterte said Thursday night when asked about his talks with United States President Donald Trump whom he met for the first time on Friday.
Trump, who has been on an Asian tour since the start of the month, is expected to raise concerns before Duterte on a number of issues concerning the region—including the rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and Beijing’s growing influence in the region worsened by the territorial sovereignty issues involving the South China Sea.
While any planned bilateral meeting will not happen between the two leaders at the sidelines of the Apec summit, such could happen when Manila hosts the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit starting Nov. 12.
The US leader is likewise expected to reaffirm Washington’s unwavering commitment and friendship with the Philippines, which has been strained by Duterte’s frequent cursing of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.
Duterte, however, expressed disgust that while the whole world was busy discussing the threat of Pyongyang’s ballistic missile launches to regional security, China had been busy militarizing the disputed waters.
“While we were looking intensely on the … what was evolving in the Korean Peninsula, the next photographs that … the photos from the intelligence came up that almost the islands were militarized already,” he said in Filipino.
Duterte said the Chinese-occupied islands were mostly equipped by artillery batteries, which had effectively militarized the region.
While China remains his “good friend,” Duterte said, the only way to remove their militarized features in the disputed waters was “to go to war.”
“[But] We are not...ready for that. In the fullness of God’s time, maybe we’ll have an interesting arrangement there,” Duterte said.
“But it would depend on the people of China, how far they would go. But we are asking for the minimum.”
Duterte and Chinese President Xi will be meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit here, where Duterte is expected to raise the concerns of the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and where he will press the Chinese leader to agree with a working Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.
“I am not criticizing China, but I am telling them that it is high time for a code of conduct,” Duterte said.
“It is not wrong for me to tell China that you have already placed heavy artillery there. It [makes] us worried and wary because we are also using that passage.”