Regional security will be the top concern of President Rodrigo Duterte when he attends next week’s commemorative summit of the partnership between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and South Korea.
Duterte said he would have a bilateral meeting with other ASEAN leaders during the summit in Busan, South Korea, on Nov. 25 to 27.
The “equilibrium of geopolitics” will be on the agenda, as well as the tension in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, Duterte told reporters.
“It's really security, and it's obvious. It is now the equilibrium of geopolitics. You know, North Korea and then the Spratly Islands. The South Koreans are also against the occupation of the South China Sea and the claim of China."
Meanwhile, American scientists told House lawmakers on Tuesday that China is responsible for most of the destruction in the West Philippine Sea.
Marine biologist Kent Carpenter, of the US-based Old Dominion University, told House members that China alone accounted for most of the destruction in the disputed waters.
“If you look at the total damage that's done so far, China is not the only country that has building activity on these islands on these reef flats on the West Philippine Sea. Vietnam does, the Philippines does, and Malaysia also has some activity out here," Carpenter said.
"But the bulk of the damage is being done by the People’s Republic of China as 14 square kilometers were destroyed by its island-building activities."
Duterte also said the government was buying corvettes from South Korea to boost the country’s naval defenses, adding that the trip there would allow him to have a first-hand look at the equipment.
Duterte met with Korean Ambassador Han Dong-man in Malacañang on Monday and received an album of the BTS, a South Korean boy group.
“When I met President Duterte, I gave him one BTS album. BTS is one of the very famous idols. This will give a good impact to have a better relationship between Korea and the Philippines,” Han said.
Recently, the South Korean envoy pitched for the creation of a “Korean town” in Malate, Manila, in coordination with the city government.
Han also said Duterte’s visit to South Korea this year would strengthen the ties between the two countries.
“Korea and the Philippines have been strengthening ties since the Korean war,” Han said in a virtual press conference.
“I hope we can reach a trading agreement beneficial for both Korea and the Philippines."
Duterte last visited South Korea in June 2018, where he said the two countries were committed to “significantly strengthen” their partnership, especially in defense and security, trade and investments and infrastructure.