Will he chew gum? Ja­pan wary of Philip­pines pres­i­dent’s visit

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The out­spo­ken Philippine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte wor­ries his Japanese hosts. Not just his pol­icy to­ward the US but also his in­for­mal style: Will he chew gum in front of the em­peror? Duterte ar­rived in Tokyo yes­ter­day for a three-day visit, his first since be­com­ing Philippine leader at the end of June. For diplo­mats and po­lit­i­cal leaders, the main is­sue is his US pol­icy and how Ja­pan can help mend those ties.

Tokyo is a ma­jor US ally, and has watched with con­cern as Duterte crit­i­cized the US and said he would scale back his coun­try’s mil­i­tary en­gage­ment with Amer­ica. He has also wor­ried Ja­pan and the United States by reach­ing out to China. Japanese For­eign Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida told re­porters he planned to ask Duterte what his real in­ten­tions are when the two have din­ner. He said Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe will do the same to­day.

“I think it would be im­por­tant that we ... di­rectly hear opin­ions from Pres­i­dent Duterte him­self,” Kishida said. The wor­ries about Duterte were re­in­forced yes­ter­day when he lashed out again at the US in a de­par­ture speech at the Manila air­port. He called Amer­i­cans “fool­ish,” say­ing their land is stricken with “pure big­otry and dis­crim­i­na­tion,” a day af­ter se­nior Amer­i­can diplo­mat Daniel Rus­sel crit­i­cized Duterte’s con­tro­ver­sial re­marks and un­clear in­ten­tions. “These Amer­i­cans are re­ally fool­ish,” Duterte said, adding Amer­i­cans travel to the Philip­pines “like some­body, with­out visas, these sil­lies.”

He also made a veiled threat to re­voke a 2014 de­fense pact al­low­ing large num­bers of US troops, war­ships and planes to en­ter the Philip­pines for com­bat drills. Re­fer­ring to the pact, Duterte said, “For­get it,” adding that in the fu­ture, “I do not want to see any mil­i­tary man of any other nation ex­cept the Philippine soldier.” In Ja­pan, a coun­try where for­mal­ity and po­lite­ness are highly val­ued, some are wor­ried about Duterte’s rough side, par­tic­u­larly when he meets Em­peror Ak­i­hito on Fri­day. Japanese TV shows have re­peat­edly shown Duterte ap­par­ently chew­ing gum at meet­ings and other public oc­ca­sions.

In footage of a meet­ing with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Duterte walked in with his hands in his pock­ets and chewed gum dur­ing the hand­shake and a sign­ing cer­e­mony. “When he makes a cour­tesy visit to the em­peror, his be­hav­ior could have a ma­jor im­pact,” se­nior law­maker It­sunori On­odera said Sun­day on Fuji TV. “I trust he un­der­stands the con­se­quences and would not do such a thing (as chew­ing gum). I do hope the Philippine side will re­mind him of that par­tic­u­lar point.” Duterte of­ten doesn’t but­ton the top but­ton of his shirt, wears jeans and has been seen with­out socks.

In Ja­pan, where the em­peror was con­sid­ered a liv­ing god un­til the end of World War II, peo­ple are ex­pected to be ex­tra po­lite to him and his fam­ily. “It’s un­be­liev­able. I have never seen any­thing like that!” for­mer diplo­mat Ku­ni­hiko Miyake said on Fuji TV. “How could he dare to be­have in ways that could cause his host to lose face.” Ja­pan is ex­pected to of­fer Manila two large Coast Guard pa­trol boats - on top of an ear­lier pledge of 10 smaller ones and TC-90 mil­i­tary train­ing air­craft to help boost the Philippine’s mar­itime se­cu­rity in the South China Sea. — AP

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