Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he wants all U.S. and foreign troops out of the Philippines within the next two years. He went on to say that he was willing to renegotiate, or scrap entirely, any current defense pacts with the United States to make this happen. The announcement was made on Wednesday during a trip to Japan.
Watch Duterte’s address here:
This has been the clearest signal he has sent indicating that he wants to cut off a 2014 defense pact made with the U.S. He has threatened to end these pacts that allow large numbers of US troops, warships, and planes to enter the Philippines for combat drills and allow the Pentagon to use five Philippine military bases.
He ended his speech by stating there would be no more joint military training exercises between the Philippines and the U.S. He stated:
“This will be the last maneuver, war games, between the United States and the Philippine military,”
This announcement came a surprise. Duterte has stated that he did not want to revoke the military alliance with the U.S. as recently as Tuesday. Duterte stated that he would continue to work with Japan to resolve contradicting territory claims between China and other nations in the South China Sea. Japan depends on the United States for defense, Japanese officials have not yet commented on Duterte’s statements.
United States officials are taking a relaxed approached to Duterte’s sudden change of mind on policy. Jeffrey Hornung, of the security and foreign affairs program at Sasakawa Foundation USA, hopes Japanese officials can mediate the problems between Duterte and U.S. troops. Hornung told reporters:
“Japan is in a position right now — and Prime Minister Abe specifically — to really remind him of the importance of the United States, but also to provide a venue to let him blow off some steam,”
Cutting these pacts would be a massive blow to the Obama administration’s plan to increase American influence in Asia. Many foreign policy experts agree that there is still time for Duterte to mend his relations with the United States before any action is taken to remove U.S. troops from the Philippines.