Duterte: Xi told me China to go to war if PH drills oil in SCS

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday that his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, had warned of war if the Philippines started to drill for oil in the contested South China Sea.

“He told me, ‘We do not want to quarrel with you. We would want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we will go to war’,” Duterte said, quoting Xi in one of their recent exchanges.

Duterte said during the Philippine Coastguard Auxiliary National Convention in Davao City that Xi had insisted on the Asian giant’s centuries-old claim to the vast South China Sea as against a recent tribunal ruling.

However, Duterte said Xi told him that the arbitral award, would be discussed sometime in the future — but not now given that other countries were also staking their claims in the disputed waters.

The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded exclusive, sovereign rights to the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea on July 2016. This nullified China’s “nine-dash line,” which ate up around 85 percent of the South China Sea.

Duterte had previously said that there would be an opportune time to bring up the arbitral ruling — when China would start siphoning off minerals from contested areas.