Philippines’ Duterte Cancels Visit to South China Sea Island

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has canceled a controversial, flag-raising visit to an island in the South China Sea after Beijing cautioned against the trip. “Because of our friendship with China and because we value your friendship, I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag,” Duterte said in Riyadh on Wednesday. “They said, do not go there in the meantime, just do not go there please. I will correct myself because we value our friendship with China,” he was cited as saying by Reuters. Duterte announced his plans to visit the hotly contested Spratly Archipelago on April 6, saying he was ordering troops to occupy the Thitu island so the Philippines could claim the territory as its own. At that time, he said he personally would accompany soldiers to “put up structures and the Philippine flag.” He backed off, however, after being warned of “trouble” by Beijing, he said. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have claims to territories in the disputed South China Sea.