By Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched a spirited defence of his relationship with China on Monday, insisting that his refusal to challenge its maritime assertiveness was not capitulation, but an avoidance of conflict. Known for his stinging rebukes of Western powers, the firebrand leader devoted part of his annual state of the nation address to arguing that it was senseless to confront a country with claims to the same waters, and a far superior military. “I will send our marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, I guarantee you, not one of them will come home alive,” he said in a 1-1/2-hour speech to Congress that frequently went off script. “If I send my new frigate, they will be decimated because there are already guided missiles on that island,” he said, referring to a reef that China has turned into a de facto military installation. “The fastest that they have installed can reach Manila in seven minutes. You want war?” Duterte has drawn heavy scrutiny for his warm ties to a country deeply mistrusted by his U.S.-allied defence apparatus, with critics accusing him of gambling with national sovereignty in pursuit of… Read full this story
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