- President said ASEAN’s maritime time dispute with China better off untouched
- He claimed he and Chinese president agreed not to go to war, waste people’s lives
- Duterte also said ASEAN and China would be better off as friends, not enemies
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said it is better for ASEAN countries and China not to focus on their maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea in order to avoid fanning the flames of war.
“The South China Sea is better left untouched. Nobody can afford to go to war,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) business and investment summit (ABIS) and of the Asean Mentors for Entrepreneurship Network (Amen).
“Nobody can afford to go to war, either with the big powers Russia, China, Britain or the US,” the president added.
According to Duterte, he and China’s President Xi Jinping have already agreed not to go to war which he described as useless and would just waste lives.
“We agreed, he agrees. He (Xi) said, ‘If you are President Duterte and you want to preserve the lives of Filipinos, then as President of China, I want to save lives. I don’t waste the lives of my countrymen for a useless war that cannot be won by anybody,’” he said.
The two earlier talked over the issue during a bilateral meeting in Vietnam, with Xi assuring Duterte that China will not impede freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Duterte also said it would be better for the Philippines to befriend China and the rest of the world rather than staying hostile on a number of issues.
“Today China is the number one economic powerhouse, and we have to be friends. The other hotheads would like us to confront China and the rest of the world for so many issues,” he said.