US troops train in Philip­pines de­spite Duterte threat

The Myanmar Times - - World -

FILIPINO and US troops be­gan train­ing ex­er­cises this week, the Philip­pines mil­i­tary said yes­ter­day, de­spite Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s threats to end joint war games and kick Amer­i­can sol­diers out of his coun­try as he edges closer to Bei­jing.

Mr Duterte has called for the with­drawal of Amer­i­can troops from his coun­try and has branded US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama a “son of a whore” in re­sponse to in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism of his deadly war on drugs.

He also an­nounced an end to joint war games af­ter an am­phibi­ous ex­er­cise in­volv­ing sev­eral hun­dred US and Filipino marines last month.

But yes­ter­day, mil­i­tary spokes­peo­ple told AFP about an on­go­ing month­long joint train­ing ex­er­cise in­volv­ing around 30-40 Filipino sol­diers and US Spe­cial Forces.

“This is a very small bi­lat­eral ac­tiv­ity,” Filipino mil­i­tary spokesper­son Bri­gadier Gen­eral Resti­tuto Padilla said, re­fer­ring to the ex­er­cise that kicked off on Novem­ber 14 on the is­land of Palawan.

Philip­pine Army spokesper­son Colonel Ben­jamin Hao ear­lier told re­porters that the ex­er­cise was in­tended “to test the ba­sic war fight­ing skills of our sol­diers [and] to im­prove the re­la­tion­ship of both armed forces”.

Harry Har­ris, com­man­der of the US Pa­cific Com­mand, said in Wash­ing­ton that mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the US and the Philip­pines is un­changed for now.

The Philip­pine mil­i­tary said it was await­ing guide­lines from Mr Duterte on whether the joint war games with its key de­fence ally would con­tinue to be held next year.

Mr Duterte has made no se­cret of his hos­til­ity for the US, call­ing for US Spe­cial Forces to leave the Philip­pines’ trou­bled Min­danao re­gion where they cur­rently train Philip­pine sol­diers in counter-ter­ror­ism.

He has also threat­ened to scrap a de­fence pact in­tended to counter Chi­nese ex­pan­sion in the South China Sea as he courts Bei­jing for aid.

Mr Duterte’s war on drugs has seen more than 4000 peo­ple killed, with the UN, the Euro­pean Union and rights groups rais­ing concerns about al­leged ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and a break­down in the rule of law.

Mr Duterte has in­sisted he is not do­ing any­thing il­le­gal, but added he would be “happy to slaugh­ter” 3 mil­lion drug users. –

Photo: EPA

Ro­drigo Duterte has made no se­cret of his hos­til­ity for the US.

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