Duterte says China ‘already in possession’ of South China Sea, tells US to end military drills


SINGAPORE – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday (Nov 15) China was “already in possession” of the South China Sea, and that military drills by the United States and its allies were creating “frictions” that were derailing efforts to settle rows over these waters between Beijing and its neighbours.

“China is already in possession (of the South China Sea). It’s now in their hands. So why do you have to create frictions… that will prompt a response from China?” Mr Duterte told reporters on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Singapore.

“China is there,” he added. “That’s a reality, and America and everybody should realise that they are there.”

He said should war erupt in the South China Sea, “my country will be the first to suffer”. He pointed out that the Philippines has a mutual defence treaty with the US.

China claims most of the South China Sea, where US$3 trillion (S$4.1 trillion) in sea-borne traffic pass every year.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have conflicting claims with China in parts of the South China Sea.

Mr Duterte said conflicts over the South China Sea could best be settled through talks between China and Asean, without the US and its allies turning up the heat through displays of force as “freedom of navigation exercises”.