[Philippines], April 5 (ANI): Amid reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near a Philippines-administered island in the South China Sea, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to send his troops on a "suicide mission" if China does not "lay off".
"Let us be friends, but do not touch Pagasa Island and the rest. If you make moves there, that's a different story. I will tell my soldiers, 'Prepare for suicide mission'," CNN quoted Duterte as saying.
The Philippine President's speech came days after the Philippine government claimed that as many as 275 Chinese boats and ships had been spotted in recent months around Manila's Thitu Island (Pag-asa) in the Spratly Island chain.
Stating that his words were advice to his friends and not a warning, Duterte said, "I will not plead or beg, but I'm just telling you that lay off the Pag-asa because I have soldiers there."
Zhao Jianhua, China's ambassador to the Philippines had earlier said that Beijing was trying to verify and quantify the number of vessels around Thitu. He further stated that the said ships might be "unarmed" fishing vessels.
Thitu Island is a disputed territory. Several countries including China, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam have claimed Thitu as their own. (ANI)