Prior to the visit, Duterte gave an interview to Russia media. Commenting on the current state of relations between the Philippines and China, Duterte said that Manila will continue negotiations with Beijing on the territorial claims in the South China Sea when it is the right time for talks.
"Talks will take place, but not now. Now, everyone should calm down, and when the time is right the talks will resume," the Philippine leader said.
He added that if the Philippines is engaged in a military conflict with China it would be a "massacre."
"Do you expect me to fight China in a war? Do I have the cruise missiles for hitting them?" Duterte said.
China and some other regional players, including the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam, have had differences over the maritime borders and areas of responsibility in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Alexei Fenenko, an expert at the international relations department at Moscow State University, suggested that a conflict like the one mentioned by Duterte is possible.
"The possibility of a conflict is real if the US forces the Philippines and Vietnam into confrontation with China. In the Philippines, there are growing concerns that Washington may drag it into a hybrid standoff against Beijing. Manila does not want such a scenario. It does not want an open conflict with China. But the Philippines sees that Washington’s foreign policy has been aggressive in recent years and that the US military doctrine does not rule out conflicts with Russia and China," Fenenko told Sputnik China.
In the interview, Duterte said he considers US President Donald Trump a friend. At the same time, he stressed that the Philippines has turned away from its previous pro-American foreign policy. According to Duterte, Manila is now focused on developing cooperation with China, ASEAN and Russia.
"I guess they have a clear understanding of the situation. The Philippines cannot fully rely on US support in the event of confrontation with China. The tensions over the territorial claims [in the South China Sea] are all about maintaining the power balance by peaceful means. None of the countries involved is ready for military actions. For example, the Philippines armed forces are aimed only at resolving domestic problems, including fighting terrorists and separatists. Manila cannot afford engaging in a direct military confrontation," Panarina pointed out.
Duterte warned against driving the territorial dispute to extremes, including a military conflict, according to Yang Mian, an expert at the Center of International Relations at the Chinese Institute of Communications.
According to the Chinese expert, Manila will not harden its stance towards China because Duterte made it clear that his country needs a "new policy" on the matter.
"Duterte can be explosive and make outrageous statements, but this time he was serious. A military confrontation with China would be a disaster for the Philippines," he noted.
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