Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, known as the Donald Trump of the Pacific, unleashed a fiery batch of rhetoric this week that threatens to light a match under the South China Sea powder keg threatening a "bloody confrontation" against any country that infringes on Manila’s sovereignty and suggesting that he would "happily beat up" any party that attempts to take control of the disputed Scarborough Shoals.
The relatively unhinged musings of the Filipino leader follow controversial statements made earlier this week about the country exiting the United Nations if they continue to complain about his aggressive "war on drugs" that has left over 1,900 dead over the past 8 weeks along with statements referring to US Secretary of State John Kerry as "crazy" while laughing that he should have insulted the American diplomat more so that they would give even more money.
"I guarantee to (China), if you enter here, it will be bloody, and we will not give it to them easily. It will be the bones of our soldiers, you can include mine," said Duterte to the Associated Press. "We’ll not allow any country to bamboozle (us). We’ll not allow it."
Tensions in the South China Sea were sparked when the Philippines unilaterally submitted their claim to the disputed waters and territory before The Hague arbitration court at the behest of the United States. In their decision, the arbitration court invalidated China’s longstanding claim to the waters, through which some 40% of the world’s shipborne trade transits through each day, and surrounding territories which serve a critical military imperative for Beijing. China immediately denounced the ruling.
"We will not raise hell now because of the judgment but there will come a time that we have to do some reckoning about this. But we will chart our own course in the national interest of this country," said Duterte according to the Phil Star newspaper.
"I hope China is dealing with us in good faith. They seem to be conciliatory. We’re not insisting on arbitral judgment, I know they’re listening to us now, they can monitor us through satellite."
China holds clear military superiority over the Philippines boasting the world’s largest standing army of 2.3 million active personnel, a highly upgraded naval fleet, and some of the world’s most sophisticated fighter jets. However, the Philippines has a longstanding military alliance with the United States with American troops bound to come to the aid of their Filipino counterparts in the event that the country is attacked by China pursuant to the Mutual Defense Treaty signed on August 30, 1951.
The bellicose rhetoric of the Filipino leader seems likely to keep US defense officials from sleeping much over the next few months particularly with China already signaling the possibility that they may seek to reclaim the Scarborough Shoals in the next few weeks in order to counter the adverse ruling by The Hague. It has been reported that the reasoning among Beijing’s top military officials is that the United States will be too distracted by domestic politics and will be reticent to protest too aggressively.