Philippines, US hold war games
MANILA: The Philippines and the US launched war games yesterday against the backdrop of the unusual threat of American forces being ejected from the Southeast Asian nation, as its firebrand leader pivots to China.
President Rodrigo Duterte has sustained a verbal assault on the US, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler and mutual defence partner, since he took office on June 30 in response to criticism of his deadly war on crime.
Duterte has in recent days warned the war games will be the last of his six-year term, and threatened to scrap a defence pact implemented by his predecessor that was meant to see more US troops in the Philippines to counter Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.
“Better think twice now because I will be asking you to leave the Philippines altogether,” Duterte said on Sunday in his latest outburst against the Americans, full of typical invective.
“The Americans, I don’t like them. They are reprimanding me in public,” he said, while signalling again that he wanted to forge closer alliances with China and Russia.
Last week Duterte, 71, also claimed the CIA was plotting to assassinate him.
This came after he threatened to swear at Barack Obama after being told the US president planned to raise human rights concerns over his drug war.
Duterte has vowed to eradicate illegal drugs in the Philippines, warning the nation is in danger of becoming a narco-state.
His crime war has seen more than 3,000 people killed, with the United Nations, the European Union and rights groups raising concerns about alleged extrajudicial killings and a breakdown in the rule of law.
Duterte has insisted he is not doing anything illegal, yet at the same time said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug users.
He also likened his crime war to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s effort to exterminate Jews, but following an outcry, he apologised for referring to the Holocaust.
A total of two thousand troops from the two sides are taking part in the war games, including in waters close to flashpoint areas of the South China Sea. – AFP