Philippines says any U.S. move against Beijing in S China Sea would be in its own interest

FILE PHOTO: Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay speaks during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine foreign minister on Friday said any future action by the United States to drive China from its artificial islands in the South China Sea would be its own prerogative, and in its own national interests.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay was responding to a question during a television interview about comments by U.S. Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, who said China should be denied access to the islands it has built in disputed territory.

“They said that they would prevent China from doing or undertaking these kind of activity. If it wants to do that, they have the force to do so, let them do it,” Yasay said, referring to Tillerson’s remarks on Wednesday to U.S. senators.

China has built several artificial islands in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, which an arbitration tribunal last year ruled unlawful.

Reporting by Martin Petty and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Clarence Fernandez