Asia expert Bonnie Glaser at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said Duterte’s remarks looked like “bluster” comparable to his jet-ski remarks.
“Vintage Duterte. All bark, no bite,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Duterte seems to be under greater domestic pressure and criticism on maritime issues,” she added to Reuters. “I’m inclined to believe that his latest comment is driven … by domestic politics.”
Duterte said he might visit the island of Thitu, the largest of the Philippine-controlled islands in the Spratly archipelago, and build a barracks for servicemen operating in the area.
The Philippines marks its independence day on June 12. Thitu is close to Subi Reef, one of seven man-made islands in the Spratlys that China is accused of developing as military outposts.
Last month, Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines would strengthen its facilities in the Spratlys by building a new port and paving an existing rough airstrip.
Duterte said last month it was pointless trying to challenge China’s fortification of its man-made islands and ridiculed the media for taking his jet-ski comments seriously.
“We cannot stop them because they are building it with their mind fixed that they own the place. China will go to war,” he said.