Duterte open to war games with China

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

Photo: AFP

Sul­tan Has­sanal Bolkiah (right) chats with Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte dur­ing the lat­ter’s of­fi­cial visit to Brunei on Oc­to­ber 17.

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