Asia Minute: Philippine President Shifts Rhetoric on South China Sea

Apr 7, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

President Trump continues his meetings today in Florida with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The South China Sea remains one contentious topic. But this week, the leader of another country in the region announced a surprising development. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is back in the international news. This time not because of his war on drug dealers, but because of his comments about the South China Sea.

Duterte said troops from the Philippines should occupy certain uninhabited islands and reefs in the South China Sea, adding “the unoccupied, which are ours, let’s live on it.”

The Philippine president spoke to reporters visiting a military base near Palawan—and said “It looks like everyone is making a grab for the islands there. So we better live on those that are still unoccupied. What’s ours now, we claim it and make a strong point from there.”

The South China Sea is an area of great dispute when it comes to who has sovereignty over various islands, reefs, shoals, and outcroppings of rock.

China claims a broad amount of that territory and has built up artificial islands in several locations.

Up to now, Duterte has taken a more accommodating view of those Chinese territorial claims than his predecessor.

Several analysts have cautioned it will take some time to see how much of Duterte’s most recent comments are in the category of rhetoric rather than policy change.

China and the Philippines are scheduled to hold talks about territorial claims in the South China Sea next month.