Manila, Beijing downplay China war threat remarks May 23, 2017 0 19 12345 REUTERSMANILAThe Philippines and China played down on Monday a warning by President Rodrigo Duterte that China would go to war if the Philippines drilled for oil in the disputed South China Sea.The outspoken Philippine president has been facing criticism at home for being what some people see as too soft on China over a long-running territorial dispute.Duterte met China's President Xi Jinping for talks in Beijing last week and later said Xi had warned him there would be war if the Philippines tried to explore for oil in a disputed stretch of sea.Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said their meeting was frank and friendly, and the discussion was largely about preventing conflict, not threatening it."The conversation was very frank. There was mutual respect, there was mutual trust," Cayetano told reporters."The context was not threatening each other, that we will go to war. The context is how do we stabilise the region and how do we prevent conflict."He added:"I will not contradict the president's words. I am just telling you ... my interpretation: there was no bullying or pushing around, it was not a threat."Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also sought to make light of Duterte's comments, noting he and Xi had agreed to"strengthen communication" on important bilateral issues.China was willing to work with the Philippines to handle disputes peacefully, she told reporters.Duterte made no mention of the issue during an unusually news briefing on Monday before he left for Russia.Duterte's critics have made much of his refusal to push China to comply with a ruling last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, at the end of a case brought by the Philippines against China, which was largely in favour of the Philippines. China has never recognised the case.The court said the Philippines had a sovereign right to access offshore oil and gas fields in its Exclusive Economic Zone.Duterte's rivals have likened his refusal to insist that China abide by the ruling as akin to surrendering sovereignty.Senate minority leader, Frank Drilon, said the government"should not allow our country to be bullied and threatened," while former foreign minister Albert del Rosario said Manila should do joint maritime patrols with traditional ally the United States, an idea he said Duterte had jettisoned as part of his"full embrace of China".Duterte chafes at what he considers Philippine subservience to the United States and has sought to engage more with China, which has promised loans and investment that will be vital to his ambitious $180 billion infrastructure overhaul. POST A COMMENT RELATED ARTICLES Duterte heads to Russia in search of new equation May 23, 2017 0 5 UN urges Indonesia to free Jakarta governor May 23, 2017 0 6 Outcry at Philippine religious 'distractions' ban May 23, 2017 0 5 Over 20 wounded in Bangkok army hospital bomb blast AP BANGKOK A bomb exploded at an army-run hospital in Bangkok on Monday, the third anniversary of a military coup, and authorities said more than 20 people were wounded. Investigators found remnants of batteries and .. Malaysian navy boat, 9 crew missing after chase KUALA LUMPUR Nine crew members of a Malaysian navy boat are missing after they lost contact with their parent ship while chasing away intruding fishermen, the navy said on Monday. The nine were part of a boarding team from .. Taiwan 'unfairly blocked' from WHO by China: Minister GENEVA Taiwan's health minister says China has"unfairly blocked" the island's government from taking part in the annual meeting of the World Health Organization's governing body. Health and Welfare .. Thai junta fails promises, 3 yrs after coup: HRW DPA Bangkok Thailand's ruling military government has failed to keep its promises of respecting human rights and restoring democratic rule in the three years since a May 2014 coup, Human Rights Watch (HRW)~said .. Police arrest dozens in Jakarta gay sauna raid AP JAKARTA Indonesian police detained dozens of men including several foreigners in a weekend raid on a gay sauna in the capital, another sign of growing hostility to homosexuality in the world's most populous .. Thai army chief: Bangkok hospital bomb connected to recent blasts Authorities initially pointed to a gas leak or an explosion of an air conditioning compressor as possible causes, local media reported. But, following an investigation, police confirmed the explosion was a bomb, ..