Philippines leader wants US troops out

TOP LEVEL: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, is escorted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, centre, to a joint media conference in Tokyo yesterday. Picture: AFP
TOP LEVEL: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, is escorted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, centre, to a joint media conference in Tokyo yesterday. Picture: AFP

Philippines  President Rodrigo Duterte 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 remarks, made during a high-profile visit to Japan, follow a series of anti-American tirades by the firebrand leader.

“I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops,” Duterte told an economic forum in Tokyo, in a clear reference to US forces, ahead of a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“I want them out and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, I will,” he said. The US has a small number of special forces on the southern island of Mindanao to aid counter-terrorism operations.

But Duterte has already said he wants US troops out of Mindanao because their presences tokes tensions on the island where Islamic militants have waged a decades-long separatist insurgency.

Duterte has repeatedly attacked the US while cosying up to Beijing, upending his nation’s foreign policy in comments that have sometimes been quickly retracted.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, asked to clarify the president’s remarks, said Duterte did not mean US troops would be ousted.

The acid-tongued leader arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday on his first visit to Japan since taking office on June 30, looking to persuade executives that his country is open for business, after seeming to overturn Manila’s traditional diplomatic alliances.

Duterte, 71, has slammed Washington for questioning his violent crime crackdown, which has claimed some 3 700lives and attracted wide spread international criticism.

He has also insulted US 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 separation did not mean he would sever ties, he yesterday reiterated his calls for an end to all joint war games with the US.

In Tokyo, Duterte and Abe later stressed in a joint media appearance their countries’ common values as democracies that respect the rule of law.

“The Philippines will continue to work closely with Japan on issues of common concern in the region . . . including the South China Sea,” he said after the summit.

Japan announced loans totalling21.3-billion yen (R2.8-billion)to help improve the Philippines’ maritime safety as well promote peace and agriculture on Mindanao.

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