Duterte to bring up China claim in South China Sea in ASEAN Summit
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he will ask China ''if is it correct to declare ownership of an ocean” during their meeting at the 34th ASEAN ( Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit in Thailand.
During his speech at the oath-taking of his son, Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte, Duterte revealed the topic he will discuss during the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok.
Duterte said the China’s claim over the whole South China Sea is based on their historical nine-dash line which reach until the coastline of affected countries.
“My only question to China. We’re friends but you know, China drew a line close to the coastlines of Vietnam, Malaysia and even Brunei. Now I’m saying: Is it correct for China to declare ownership of an ocean?” he said.
Duterte is the moderator for the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership from 2018-20221 for the ASEAN countries to negotiate with China on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.
“I’m the moderator for China-ASEAN, but I’m imposing this question. Can you claim ownership of the ocean? Because nobody can prevent America from claiming a third of the Pacific Ocean,” he said.
Because of this logic, Duterte said he will claim the Sulu Sea and no one can enter the territory without his permission.
“I am thinking of claiming the Sulu Sea as ours. Done cross (the ocean) if you don’t have permission from me,” said Duterte.
“And I wouldn’t mind if the America will claim the whole Pacific. The Australia will claim all. That is the danger. That’s what I want to say (and) I will talk lengthily about it during the ASEAN,” he added.
Duterte clarified that it’s not the matter of the so-called “nine-dash line”.
“It’s not the matter of nine-dash line. Just simple, can you claim an ocean as your own because tell me now and I will also claim mine. It’s written there Sulu Sea,” said Duterte.
“That is what we are talking about tomorrow,” he said.
Duterte then reiterated that the collision incident along the Recto Bank is a “maritime incident” and is not an attack on the country’s sovereignty.
“For the military, for the police and for everybody. That collision of ship and vessel that is a maritime incident or accident. Just like a collision on highway. It’s not a confrontation of armed men or ships,” he said.
Though the life of the fishermen were put in danger after they were abandoned by the Chinese fishing vessel who rammed at their boat, Duterte said it’s the Coast Guard who is tasked to investigate the incident since there were no casualties.
“We call it the Marine Board of Inquiry… You don’t call the Navy when there is no war,” he said.
Sending a Navy ship may cause armed confrontation that may be result to deaths.
“So it’s up for the...Marine Board of Inquiry. If that is not registered on the books of the government as a ship, then you go to the Coast Guard,” he said.
“China says, they will compensate if that is there fault. So why do we have to go into an argument?” he added.
Duterte said Recto (Reed) Bank is part of the territory of the Philippines.
“It’s not a matter of sovereignty, we are only 12 miles (from Recto Bank). That is part of our territory as a Republic. Beyond that what have given as is the Exclusive Economic Zone. (The incident) is not an attack to our sovereignty,” he said.
“Sovereignty is the Republic, if you attack that then there’s going to be a war. But if you said (on this incident) ? and they keep on insisting, they don’t know anything. They said go to… can you take it? Can you (fight against) missile of China? The marines will already be gone just before they left Palawan,” Duterte added.
He said he is not afraid of China but what he is afraid of is the country’s troops are no match against their soldiers.
“I will not do that. Now, you have to place me in a very advantageous position (first),” he said.
On the issue of invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, Duterte said it should be allowed by their president and the Congress.
“America has the right to interfere if it becomes a bloody confrontation. And one thing, if there is an invocation of (MDT) it should be concord by congress of America. They will go to war only if the president say so and if congress will give its accord. Other than that, that is not the proper (solution),”he said.
Duterte said the problem in the incident is the critics “little knowledge” on the situation.
“That is the problem. A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing. If you only know that far then you will enter (a problem), (that’s) not good,” said Duterte.
Duterte left Davao airport around 7:07 pm for Bangkok. Ella Dionisio/DMS