Duterte on South China Sea: ‘Can a country claim the whole ocean?’

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South China sea code of conduct
President Duterte speaking at the Nikkei International Forum on the Future of Asia in Japan today.

President Duterte has questioned China’s claim to the entire South China Sea as he pushed for a “code of conduct” over the disputed waters.

Speaking during a speech in Japan today (Friday, May 31), he said: “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?”

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He was speaking before leaders and economic experts from across the region at the Nikkei International Forum on the Future of Asia.

“I am sad and bewildered, not angry because I cannot do anything but I just hope that China will come up with a conduct of the seas soon,” he said.

Beijing has said that it expects to finish crafting the document by 2021. The Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China drew up a framework for the code in 2017.

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The president also urged the swift completion of the code to reduce the risks of conflict in the South China Sea, through which 80 per cent of all world trade passes.

“It would do as well maybe in a higher ministerial level to talk about this and try to prod China to come up with it, to shorten the possibility, to make sure the law of averages is reduced to the barest minimum. If fighting can erupt, if 25 per cent, maybe we can reduce it to 15,” he said.

He also urged the United States to keep its distance, saying a US-China clash could only make matters worse.

“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,” he said.

He suggested that a neutral third party could help to speed up the code of conduct.

“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,” the president said.

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