Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has alerted Beijing to withdraw from uncertain island in the South China Sea, alert of possible military action if China "touches" it in between growing tensions over the main waterway.
Mr. Duterte, pointing to draw trade and investment from the Asian superpower, has majorly hold back his initial criticism of Beijing's extensive claims to the sea which is a point of regional contention as trillions dollars goods pass through it.
But as the Philippine military alerted that lots of Chinese coast guard and fishing containers had "swarmed" the Manila-held Pag-asa island, also referred as Thitu, the Philippine president addressed.
“I will not plead or beg, but I am just telling you that lay off the Pag-asa because I have soldiers there,” Mr. Duterte said in speech to prosecutors.
“If you touch it, that's another story. Then I will tell my soldiers 'prepare for suicide missions'”, he added.
Mr. Duterte has again and again asserted that war with China would be worthless and there is chance that the Philippines would lose and suffer highly in the process.
His statement came after his Department of Foreign Affairs delivered a statement calling the Chinese ships' existence an “illegal” damage of Philippine sovereignty.
China, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam have all risked claims to numerous reefs and islands as well as waterways in the sea, with rich petroleum assets thought to sit profound below the waters.
In a major victory for Manila, an international maritime tribunal governed initially in Mr. Duterte's presidency in 2016 that China's claims to these areas have no legal grounds.
However, he has majorly set aside that governing and backed off on their once tense territorial quarrel over the sea.
He has been slated at home for not taking a strong stance on China and getting fewer billions of dollars in investment assured by Chinese President Xi Jinping.