Duterte wants US troops out of Philip­pines in two years

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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.

Photo: AFP

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