THE contentious issue of the South China Sea is one of the “shared interests” that President Rodrigo Duterte said could be a topic of discussion with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his visit to Japan next week.
“My talks with the Japanese government, particularly with the Premier, will really be solely, most of it, economic cooperation, and of course, shared interests,” the President said in a news conference late Friday after arriving in Davao City from a four-day state visit to China.
“The most important thing in the shared interest is about the South China Sea,” he said.
Duterte emphasized the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which recognized the Philippines’ rights to its exclusive economic zone.
“I told China I cannot surrender anything there and in passing, I mentioned they said that at least what was, you know, ‘we don’t want trouble there, we can only talk and we hope your country will not do something foolish to start a violent war there or insolent (act),’” he said.
The President added that he told Chinese officials that in talking with them, he would always be guided by what is in the Philippine Constitution.
Duterte said of his forthcoming Japan visit: “That could be also the meat of what I could tell your Minister, that we can only agree to talk peacefully, resolve the dispute, and maybe come up with something that’s good for everybody”.
Japan recently announced that it would be increasing its activities in the South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States and exercises with regional navies.
It would also be giving military aid to countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam as it increases its role in the contested waters.