Duterte open to war games with China
PHILIPPINES President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to joint military exercises with China and Russia, and reiterated he will no longer allow war games with the United States.
Mr Duterte made the remarks in an interview with Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television ahead of a four-day visit to Beijing aimed at improving ties that soured over competing claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.
Asked if he would consider joint military exercises with China or Russia, Mr Duterte said, “I have given enough time for the Americans to play with the Filipino soldiers.”
Mr Duterte also repeated he would no longer allow joint exercises with the United States, the Philippines’ main defence ally and supplier of military hardware.
“This will be the last. It has been programmed. I do not want my soldiers to be humiliated,” Mr Duterte said, in reference to one set of war games in the Philippines that ended last week.
Mr Duterte has sought to dramatically reshape his nation’s foreign relations since taking office by pivoting toward China and Russia while moving away from the United States.
He has been angered by US criticism of his war on crime, which has claimed more than 3700 lives, and praised China and Russia for showing him “respect”.
But Mr Duterte, signalling his shift is for pragmatic reasons, has also repeatedly ridiculed the United States for what he sees as its weakening economic and military influence around the world.
Mr Duterte took an entourage of hundreds of businesspeople with him to Beijing yesterday, and Philippine media have said deals worth billions of dollars are expected to be announced during the trip.
Bilateral relations with China suffered under Mr Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino, who tried to challenge China’s expansionism in the South China Sea.
To counter China, Mr Aquino allowed a much greater American military presence in the Philippines.
He also filed a legal case at a UNbacked tribunal, which ruled in July that China’s claims to most of the sea had no legal basis. China refused to accept the ruling.
Mr Duterte has said he does not want to use the verdict to pressure China. –
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (right) chats with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during the latter’s official visit to Brunei on October 17.