Temper behaviour in South China Sea, Duterte tells China

Optical satellite image of Leizhou harbor Guangdong

Optical satellite image of Leizhou harbor Guangdong

However, instead of blaming China for building and militarising islands in disputed waters, he has said the United States was at fault for not blocking the construction when it started.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has called for the Chinese government to tone down its behavior in the South China Sea, warning ongoing tensions could spark an accidental conflict. "You can not create an island, it's man-made, and you say that the air above these artificial islands is yours". "Well, they have to rethink that because that would be a flashpoint someday", he added.

Philippine officials have claimed military pilots are repeatedly warned off by Beijing as their planes approach Philippine-held Thitu island, which lies beside a Chinese air base built on top of Subi Reef. That is wrong because those waters are what we would consider global sea.

"You can not create an island. I don't think it will harm anyone if we all work together and find out what's in there", he added.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague concluded in 2016 that Beijing's claims to areas of the resource-rich sea have no legal basis in an arbitration launched by the Philippines, whose "sovereign rights" it said China had violated.

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China's Foreign Ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Duterte's national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon told reporters at the time that the Philippines could go to war "if our people are hurt there".

A Philippine government report seen by the AP showed that in the second half of previous year, Philippine military aircraft received Chinese radio warnings at least 46 times while patrolling near the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea's Spratly archipelago.

During his two years in office, he chose not to explicitly claim Manila's rights over them, by virtue of the favourable ruling of the PCA, in exchange for Chinese investment.

The Chinese military also reportedly issued warning to the USA military aircraft which also conducted over flights over the South China Sea. The new islands stand in close proximity to islands occupied by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

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