Duterte wants US troops out of Philippines in two years
PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday he wants US troops out of his country in the next two years and is willing to scrap defence pacts with longtime ally Washington if necessary.
The comments follow a series of anti-American tirades by the firebrand leader, who has repeatedly attacked the US while cosying up to Beijing, upending his nation’s foreign policy in comments that have sometimes been quickly retracted.
“I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign troops,” Mr Duterte told an economic forum in Tokyo, in a clear reference to US forces.
“I want them out and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will,” he added.
The US, which once operated sprawling bases in the country, now has a small number of Special Forces on the southern island of Mindanao to aid in counter-terrorism operations.
Mr Duterte has previously said he wants US troops out of Mindanao because their presence stokes tensions on the island where Islamic militants have waged a decades-long separatist insurgency.
The acid-tongued leader arrived in Tokyo on October 25 on his first visit to Japan since taking office on June 30, looking to persuade executives his country is “open for business”, after overturning Manila’s traditional diplomatic alliances.
The 71-year-old has also slammed Washington for questioning his violent crime crackdown, which has claimed some 3700 lives and attracted widespread international criticism and outrage.
Mr Duterte has also insulted President Barack Obama, calling him a “son of a whore” and announcing a “separation” from the US during a visit to Beijing last week.
Although he quickly walked back from his comments, saying that “separation” did not mean he would “sever” ties, he reiterated his calls yesterday for an end to all joint war games with the US.
“This will be the last manoeuvre war games between the United States
and the Philippines military,” he said of an event hosted in recent weeks by the Philippines.
Mr Duterte is set to hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and will also meet with Emperor Akihito during the trip.
Although his Japanese hosts depend on the US for security, Tokyo has so far not responded to Mr Duterte’s diatribes, while Washington has taken a calm approach.
“We’re going to take the long view,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, adding the US was not going to react and respond to every bit of rhetoric.
Mr Duterte attempted to calm worries in Japan over his trip to China, assuring that he was not seeking military ties with Beijing, just a closer economic relationship. –
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (second left) is welcomed by Sadayuki Sakakibara (second right), chair of Keidanren
(Japan Business Federation), during the ir luncheon in Tokyo yesterday.