MANILA - China is not targeting the Philippines with its missile systems in the South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Wednesday, as he defended Manila's dealings with Beijing.
Cayetano told lawmakers that he received assurances from China that the missile system was its response to "non-regional players and some regional players."
"It's a defensive system and it is not against the Philippines," Cayetano said. "China also assured us with our good relationship that we are not their enemy."
US network CNBC, citing intelligence sources, earlier said Chinese missiles were installed on the Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs.
China's missiles in the South China Sea have nuclear warheads with a range capability of 11,000 to 13,000 kilometers, Cayetano said.
"Whether it's tactical or strategic weapons, they don't need this on Mischief Reef or Spratlys kung tayo ang kalaban nila (if we are indeed their enemy)," Cayetano said.
Cayetano also said the public should trust the government on its relationship with China.
"We are not asking you to trust us blindly. We are asking you to trust us because we are diplomats," he said.
Since he assumed office in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has sought to rebuild ties between Manila and Beijing that were strained by a maritime dispute.
Duterte's predecessor, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, questioned China's claims before a United Nations-backed arbitration court. The Philippines won, but the verdict was handed down during Duterte's term.