Duterte dials down rhetoric on China

MANILA - Rodrigo Duterte is taking a more measured tone regarding disputes in the South China Sea, as the incoming Philippine president aims for warmer relations with Beijing.

Duterte told a news conference in the city of Davao on Sunday night that he wants to improve the Philippines' ties with China, which hit a snag under President Benigno Aquino. "It has not been cold, but I would rather be friendly with everybody," Duterte said when asked about his policy toward China.

"I do not want war," he went on to say. "I cannot support a war and I will not waste the time and lives of soldiers for nothing."

Generally, Duterte has been viewed as friendly to China. But during a presidential debate, he threatened to ride a jet ski to the disputed waters to assert the Philippines' sovereignty.

Critics could seize upon his latest statement as a sign that he lacks a clear plan to address competing maritime interests.

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