President Rodrigo Duterte said he is pushing through with his trip to South Korea despite his aversion to traveling, saying that there are many things “at stake.”
“I hate traveling. I don’t want to travel. It gives me [a] headache and everything, but this is important. You know, so many things at stake. One is that we are buying arms. Second is that there are many assistance on the way, coming. Third is Seoul is our vital partner,” he said at a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday, November 19.
“I’ll talk to Korea. But on the sides. That’s how it is. They call it pull-aside,” he added.
Duterte will be meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea (ASEAN-ROK) Commemorative Summit to discuss several matters including military upgrades, North Korea, and the South China Sea dispute.
The trip, according to Duterte, would also allow him to assess the equipment to be acquired from South Korea as the Philippines is acquiring two brand new corvettes and firearms from them.
Recently, the country bought 12 FA-50 jets from South Korea to strengthen its territorial defense capabilities.
“You know, firearms are costly nowadays but we can always buy,” he said.
The chief executive also confirmed that he would be holding bilateral meetings with other leaders on the sidelines of the summit but did not elaborate further.
“Security matters. One, it’s really about security. And it’s obvious. It is now… the equilibrium of geopolitics. You know North Korea then the Spratly Islands. The South Koreans are also against the occupation of the South China Sea and the claim of China,” Duterte said.
China’s creeping expansion in the South China Sea is drawing concerns from other regions who are worried about its impact on freedom of navigation in the busy sea lane.
The ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit will celebrate three decades of dialogue partnership between the regional bloc and South Korea from November 25 to 26.