As seen on the August 2019 issue of The Philippine Sentinel
During the plenary session of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Bangkok on June 22, 2019, Philippine President Duterte asked the United States to declare war on China. He also asked the mighty American nation to deploy its 7th Fleet to the South China Sea with intention to push China out of the contested region. The U.S. 7th Fleet consists of some 70 to 80 warships and submarines.
The Philippines is one of five nations whose claims in the South China Sea overlap with China’s historical claim of its so-called “Nine Dash Line.”
The area contains rich fishing grounds, vital shipping routes and potential natural resources, but China has dismissed competing claims and enforced its control there by building a network of military bases on expanded or man-made shoals and reefs.
The U.S. has repeatedly condemned Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. American naval commanders regularly send warships and aircraft on “freedom of navigation” and overflight operations designed to keep pressure on Beijing and assert Washington’s belief that the area constitutes international waters.
But Duterte told reporters that such measures are insufficient, and that if the U.S. wants China out of the South China Sea, he would be willing to help.
“I have a proposal,” Duterte said, according to Business Insider. “If America wants China to leave, and I can’t make them…I want the whole 7th Fleet of the armed forces of the United States of America there.”
“When they enter the South China Sea, I will enter,” he said. “I will ride with the American who goes there first. Then I will tell the Americans, ‘Okay, let’s bomb everything.'”
Duterte’s inflammatory speech was his second in three days, having also been beating war drums. During a speech marking the opening of a rice processing plant on the central island of Leyte, the president said the U.S. is always “pushing us, egging us” towards war with Beijing, “making me the bait,” according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“What do you think Filipinos are, earthworms?” he asked. “Now, I say, you bring your planes, your boats to South China Sea. Fire the first shot, and we are just here behind you. Go ahead, let’s fight.”
The U.S. and the Philippines have a mutual defence agreement, but some Filipino lawmakers have warned that the country could be dragged into a war with China against its wishes.
“America said, ‘We will protect you. We will — your backs are covered, I’m sure,'” he said in March. “But the problem here is…any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how bulls**t America’s Congress is.”
Tensions between Beijing and Manila have been especially high in recent weeks after the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat in June, which left 22 fishermen drifting in the South China Sea near the Reed Bank table mount. A Chinese vessel, which fled the scene, has been blamed for the incident.
A passing Vietnamese ship eventually rescued the stranded sailors.