MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte questioned China for its sweeping claims in the contested South China Sea while urging fast track of the code of conduct in the disputed waterway.
In a speech at the Nikkei’s 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan on Friday, Duterte said the sea code will be completed soon since the South China Sea “is always a flashpoint for trouble.”
“I love China, it has helped us a bit. But it behooves upon us to ask: Is it right for a country to claim the whole ocean? Only just leave the high seas as it was during the old days of international law,” Duterte said.
“I am sad and bewildered, not angry because I cannot do anything but I just hope that China will come up with conduct of the seas soon,” he added.
The code of conduct will serve as the basis for negotiations and was expected to push China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for an agreement on a set of formal guidelines in the disputed waters.
The code aimed to prevent conflicting territorial claims in the resource rich and strategic waterway from erupting into violent confrontations or worse, an economically-devastating major conflict.
Duterte said the United States should not interfere in the talks on the South China Sea as “nothing will happen” if they will join with the discussions.
“Somebody should reach-out to the United States because if you leave it to them to talk, nothing will happen. There is so much animosity covered by talking about how they desire to have an agreement,” the President said.
“But there has to be somebody, not identified with any country that China does not like because there will never be a sort of an America, China talking seriously about territories. It will just end up in a shouting match,” he added.
The Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague in July 2016, which invalidated Beijing’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea. /PN