‘We will go to war’: Philippines leader says China’s Xi threatened him

by WorldTribune Staff, May 21, 2017

When the Philippines declared its intention to drill for oil in the South China Sea, it got a warning from China – do so and “we will go to war.”

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said that is what Chinese President Xi Jinping told him last week when the two met, according to a Reuters report.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte prior to their bilateral meeting during the Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 15. /Reuters

At the meeting, Duterte cited last year’s ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that granted the Philippines sovereign rights in its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone to access offshore oil and gas fields, including the Reed Bank, 85 nautical miles off its coast.

The ruling also invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim on its maps denoting sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. China has repeatedly said it would not comply with the court’s ruling, the Reuters report said.

“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 said, recalling his conversation with the Chinese president.

“His response to me, ‘we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of a warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.’ ”

Duterte recalled the same story about his discussion with Xi on oil exploration in a recorded television show aired moments after the speech.

He said Xi told him “do not touch it.”

Duterte said Xi had promised that the arbitration ruling would be discussed in future, but not now, adding that China did not want to bring up the arbitral ruling at a time when other claimant countries, like Vietnam, might also decide to file cases against it at the arbitration tribunal.