The Philippine defense chief has told the US military that plans for joint patrols and naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea have been put on hold, the first concrete break in defense cooperation after months of increasingly strident comments by the country’s new president.
Delfin Lorenzana, the defense secretary, also said that 107 US troops involved in operating surveillance drones against Muslim militants would be asked to leave the southern part of the country once the Philippines acquires those intelligence-gathering capabilities in the near future.
President Rodrigo Duterte also wants to halt the 28 military exercises that are carried out with US forces each year, Lorenzana said. Duterte has said he wants an ongoing US-Philippine amphibious beach landing exercise to be the last in his six-year presidency as he backs away from what he views as too much dependence on the US.
“This year would be the last,” Duterte said of military exercises involving the Americans in a speech on Friday in southern Davao city where he lashed out at the US anew.
“For as long as I am there, do not treat us like a doormat because you’ll be sorry for it,” Duterte said. “I will not speak with you. I can always go to China.”
In Washington, the state department spokesman, John Kirby, said the US government is not aware of any official notification on curtailing military exercises. He said the US remains focused on its security commitments to the Philippines, with which it has a mutual defense treaty…
Read more : The Guardian, 07.10.2016