Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called on the U.S.’s Seventh Fleet to engage Chinese forces in the South China Sea on Monday, arguing that America should support the Philippines with military force if China does not respect international shipping lanes.
CNN reported that Duterte made the comments to reporters Monday night, telling journalists that the U.S. should “bomb everything” controlled by China in the region unless China’s government cedes control of the Spratly Islands and other land masses in the area over which the country claims control.
“I want the whole seventh fleet of the armed forces of United States of America there,” he reportedly said.
“When they enter the South China Sea, I will enter. I will ride with the American who goes there first,” Duterte added. “Then I will tell the Americans, “OK, let’s bomb everything.”
Duterte’s comments come months after he threatened war against another country and a top ally of the U.S., Canada, over a shipping company’s delivery of thousands of pounds of plastic waste falsely labeled as recyclable goods.
“We’ll declare war against them, we can handle them anyway,” Duterte said earlier this year, referring to Canada.
Duterte’s government has challenged Chinese claims of maritime authority over the South China Sea, the site of important international trade routes which have come under dispute due to the presence of China’s military.
At the same time, his government has reportedly entered into a verbal agreement with China’s President Xi Jinping over fishing rights off the coast of the Philippines which allowed Chinese vessels to fish in the area.
President Trump praised Duterte in 2017 after meeting him during a trip to several Asian countries, touting a “great relationship” despite reports of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines allegedly sanctioned by Duterte’s government.