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Philippines President Duterte warns China to back off disputed island


President Rodrigo Duterte has warned Beijing to back off from a disputed island in the South China Sea, warning of possible Philippines military action if China “touches,” AFP reports. Duterte has mostly withheld his early criticism of Beijing’s claims to the sea.

The Philippines military warned this week that hundreds of Chinese coastguard and fishing vessels had “swarmed” the Manila-held Pag-asa island, also known as Thitu.

“I will not plead or beg, but I am just telling you [to] lay off the Pag-asa because I have soldiers there,” Duterte said late on Thursday. “If you touch it, that’s another story. Then I will tell my soldiers, ‘Prepare for suicide missions.’”

Duterte has repeatedly said war with China would be futile and that the Philippines would lose and suffer heavily in the process.