(People’s Daily Online)
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his opposition to foreign interference in the South China Sea, warning that such unwelcome overtures would pose a great threat to regional stability.
Even though countries like the U.S. say all nations are by the Philippines’ side, I say we are close to a third world war, said Duterte during an interview with CCTV on Oct. 13. Duterte believes that stubborn insistence on territorial claims does not help with economic development.
Though the South China Sea issue has dampened the two countries’ relations, Duterte said he still has faith that China and the Philippines can “totally erase these dark spots,” adding that he wants to establish a more cohesive and stronger bond with China.
“In one word, I would say it is a defining moment of my presidency to open the frontiers of friendship and cooperation, and enhance [the] relationship between our two countries,” Duterte said.
Discussing the balance of the Philippines’ diplomatic ties with the U.S. and China, the president noted that his country “should not be too constrained [by] the dictates of any other country.” He also stressed that China and the Philippines are neighbors, while the U.S. is thousands of miles away.
“I am not breaking away from the U.S. – I just want to be friendly with everybody. So you do not restrain me from doing [the same thing to] China. Why should we be afraid? Why should we stick to a certain country?” Duterte said,
As for his expectations for his state visit to China, the president said he hopes that better Sino-Philippines relations can benefit his country’s sluggish domestic economy, adding that China is the only hope for the Philippines’ economy.
China is the first non-ASEAN country that Duterte has visited as a president. The visit, which kicked off on Oct. 18, will continue until Oct. 21.