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China’s President Xi Jinping had warned Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the Chinese would go to war if the Philippines were to drill for oil in a disputed area in the South China Sea, Duterte said in a speech on Friday.
According to Reuters, Duterte shared in the speech some of the details of his discussion with Xi on the South China Sea issue earlier this week. Duterte is known for his sometimes-provocative remarks, which his office usually retracts later and blames media for spinning some of his words.
The so-called South China Sea dispute between China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and even tiny Brunei, has been going on for a long time.
In July last year, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China and in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case.
“Having found that certain areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, the Tribunal found that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration,” among other things, the court’s ruling read.
China immediately rejected the ruling and said its army would defend what it deems to be its legitimate territorial claims to a basin that is not just rich in oil and gas, but is also a major waterway connecting Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Today, referring to this week’s meeting with Xi and Manila’s possible attempt to enforce the ruling and drill for oil, Duterte said, as quoted by Reuters:
“His response to me, ‘we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.”
According to Duterte, China’s Xi had said that the parties would discuss the arbitration ruling some time in the future, but not now.
Last month, China National Offshore Oil Corp tendered 22 oil and gas blocks in the South China Sea, expecting bids from foreign companies that would help it develop the reserves in response to growing local oil and gas demand.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.