MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping warned him China would go to war if the Philippines "forces the issue" of the arbitral ruling on the South Sea China.
Duterte on Friday, May 19, appeared to be sharing details of one or more of his meetings with Xi.
When Duterte mentioned the Philippines' determination to eventually drill oil in the West Philippine Sea since it is within the country's exclusive economic zone, Xi supposedly threatened war.
Duterte recalled his words to the Chinese President: "I really said, 'It’s ours. I’d like you to listen for a while. And I said, Mr Xi Jinping, I would insist that, that is ours and I will drill oil there.'"
Xi's response supposedly was: "Well, we are friends. We do not want to quarrel with you. We would want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we will go to war."
The two leaders then supposedly had a back-and-forth about their countries' claims.
"I said, 'This is ours, I'll drill the oil.' He said, ‘Please do not do that because that is ours. That is according to you.’ ‘But I have the arbitral.’ ‘Yes, but ours is historical and yours is legal of recent memory,'" said Duterte.
There was then mention from the Chinese of how their claim goes back several dynasties, to which Duterte supposedly replied that such a history is "alien" to Filipinos.
Xi then allegedly said, "Well, if you force the issue, we’ll be forced to tell you the truth.’ ‘So what is the truth?’ ‘We will go to war. We will fight you.'"
Not scared of China
Duterte was recalling all this in a bid to prove to his critics that he is "weak" for not asserting the Hague ruling.
"Don't believe for example [Albert] Del Rosario and this Justice Carpio who say I come out as weak for not using the arbitral award as leverage," Duterte told Coast Guard Auxiliary members. (READ: Duterte hits ex-DFA chief: 'Daldal nang daldal')
"I don't beat around the bush. I go straight. Maybe they think I'm scared. Why would I be scared?" he said.
Duterte's remarks about his meeting with Xi comes days after his second visit to Beijing, China. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.