‘You can’t create island & say air above it is yours’: Duterte implores China to ‘temper behavior’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has called on China to “temper its behavior” after a military aircraft was chased out of airspace above artificial islands created by the socialist republic in the South China Sea.

READ MORE: Philippines vows to protect ‘every single inch’ of its territory after Chinese bomber drills

The Spratly Islands have been at the center of a territorial dispute between China and five other near neighbours for many years. China started a sea reclamation project to create the artificial atolls in 2012 with the aim of establishing control of the shipping lanes.

“You cannot create an island and say the air above it is yours,” Duterte said in a speech to business leaders in Malacanang Palace, the official residence of the president in Manila, according to ABS-CBN. “I hope China would temper its behavior. I don’t want to quarrel with China.”  

The comments come following a recent BBC report of an encounter between the Chinese and Philippine military aircraft. In audio from the Chinese aircraft, the pilot can be heard warning the Philippine airman to “leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences.”

The BBC team were travelling aboard a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane over the Spratly Islands. During the flight, the US plane received six warnings from the Chinese military to change course.

READ MORE: Duterte will ‘go to war’ if China crosses ‘red lines,’ Philippine FM claims

In May, Philippine Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said that Duterte would go to war with China if Beijing crossed a “red line” by claiming natural resources in the South China Sea. “If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea, he [Duterte] will go to war,” Cayetano said.

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