Duterte declares upcoming Philippines-U.S. war games 'the last one’
HANOI Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plunged one of the United States’ most important Asian alliances deeper into uncertainty on Wednesday by declaring upcoming U.S.-Philippines military exercises “the last,” and ruling out any joint navy patrols.
The firebrand Duterte pledged to honor a longstanding security treaty with the United States, but said China opposed joint marine drills in the Philippines starting next week and there would be no more war games with Washington after that.
“I am serving notice now to the Americans, this will be the last military exercise,” Duterte said during a visit to Vietnam. “Jointly, Philippines-U.S.: the last one.”
Duterte’s remarks gave one of the strongest signs yet of fissures in a historic alliance that Washington has relied upon as it tries to cement its influence in Asia to counterbalance China’s rapid rise. Duterte’s foreign minister later said his comments had been taken out of context.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said he was not aware of any official notification from the Philippines about ending joint exercises.
“Our focus is on the relationship today and moving it forward,” Kirby told a regular news briefing. “We continue to believe that that’s possible. … (W)e have significant security commitments with the Philippines. We’re committed to meeting those commitments and to furthering this relationship.”
The Philippines military and U.S. Marines are to hold annual amphibious landing exercises from Oct. 4 to 12. Military leaders from the countries have also started preparing for a new set of exercises next year.
Duterte said he would establish “new alliances for trade and commerce” with Russia and China, but would maintain security agreements with Washington.
His near-daily outbursts against the United States began in earnest last month, when he spoke of alleged atrocities a century ago by the United States when it was the Philippines’ colonial ruler.
He has called President Barack Obama a “son of a *****” and said he would order the pullout of the remaining U.S. special forces stationed in the Philippines’ restive south.
Certainly there’s nothing alleged about US atrocities committed in the Philippines when we ‘liberated’ them from Spain. But making nice with China hardly seems to make sense.