‘Any suggestion?’ Duterte asks after Xi reaffirms sea claims

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, meet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (AP)
Updated 05 September 2019

‘Any suggestion?’ Duterte asks after Xi reaffirms sea claims

  • China refused to participate in the arbitration case that Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, initiated after China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine president has acknowledged he’s short of solutions to press China to adhere to Manila’s arbitration victory in their South China Sea disputes after he said Chinese President Xi Jinping told him flatly: “We will not budge.”
President Rodrigo Duterte spoke for the first time about his talk with Xi about the thorny disputes in a televised news conference Wednesday night where he was asked what move he would take next. Duterte, who has nurtured friendly ties with China, met Xi in Beijing last week.
“They’re claiming it as their own and the bad part is that they are claiming it as their historical right and they have the control over the property,” Duterte said. “That’s our problem... If you can help by suggesting, is there any other suggestion? Or have you heard of any sane solution short of going to war with China saying, ‘we will not budge“’?
The Philippine leader has long been criticized by nationalists and left-wing groups for not immediately demanding Chinese compliance with a 2016 ruling by an arbitration tribunal in The Hague that declared China’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea invalid under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The ruling also upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights over a wide stretch of waters called the exclusive economic zone, where Chinese territorial claims have delayed for years Manila’s plan to explore and extract potential undersea deposits of oil and gas.
Duterte said he raised the arbitration ruling in a meeting with Xi and other Chinese officials and he quoted the Chinese leader as replying almost in a whisper: “You know, our statement was ‘We will not budge.’ We don’t want to discuss that because it’s ours. We own the property. Why should we talk to you?“
Duterte said he reacted by telling Xi that, “It will remain a problem. It will be ... just like a sore thumb that sticks out painfully every day.”
Xi at that point tried to shift from the topic, and Duterte said he did not press on, knowing the Chinese president has been preoccupied by anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
“Out of courtesy, I said, ‘Well, I will not, maybe, insist on your answer now. I am not satisfied with your answer, but I will not ask for any other answer. I’ll just remain where I am, where I started considering that you are under stress by the incidents in Hong Kong.’“
“They have a problem so he’s hot-headed. We should time it. You know, the art of diplomacy,” Duterte said. “If a person loses a child or is left by his girlfriend, he’ll really be hot-headed.”
Duterte then again said he only inherited the problem of the Chinese taking over the Scarborough Shoal from the previous administration, which he said had withdrawn Philippine ships from the contested shoal after a long standoff and allowed Chinese ships to take control of the territory.
“This is not my problem. Who withdrew?” he said.
China refused to participate in the arbitration case that Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, initiated after China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012. Beijing ignored and has continued to defy the arbitration ruling.


UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 15 September 2019

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.