MANILA - President Duterte on Monday urged China to maintain camaraderie with Filipinos as his government negotiates with Beijing over rival claims to the South China Sea.
"If we continue to treat each other us brothers, and understand, especially the plight of [Filipino] fishermen -- I know the dynamics inside China, it has been explained to me very well -- the Chinese people might find place a place in their hearts for the Filipinos," Duterte told Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in a speech at the National Heroes Day rites.
"I hope you treat us like your brothers, not your enemies and take note of the plight of our citizens," he added.
In talking with China, Duterte promised that he will postpone bringing up the ruling of United Nations-backed court that invalidated China's economic claims to the resource-rich sea.
But he also clarified that he will "lay bare his position" before Chinese officials someday.
"I will not use the judgment arbitral, but I would one day sit in front of your representative or you and lay bare my position," Duterte said.
"For now, I want to just talk to you, maybe give us time to build our forces also. You have so much superiority," he added.
He also guaranteed that "I do not go to war. If I am ready for war, then peace is the only way."
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands ruled last month that China's economic claims to most of the strategically vital waters had no legal basis, in what was seen as a sweeping victory for the Philippines, which filed the case.
China, which has in recent years undertaken giant land reclamation works in disputed parts of the sea, has vowed to ignore the ruling. It has called for direct talks with the Philippines, but insisted it will not compromise on its claims.
Duterte, meanwhile, has repeatedly said he would not "taunt or flaunt" the court's verdict. He has also sent former president Fidel Ramos to Hong Kong for an ice-breaking meeting with Fu Ying, chair of the foreign affairs committee of the National People's Congress, China's communist-controlled legislature.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims to the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast gas reserves and through which more than $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes.