Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed Wednesday that he will put a stop to joint military exercises with the United States, a move that could further cause frictions with a long-time ally.
Speaking from Hanoi in Vietnam where he is on an official visit, Duterte said he was serving notice to Washington that an upcoming drill will be “the last”, Reuters reports.
“I am serving notice now to the Americans, this will be the last military exercise,” he was quoted as saying. “Jointly, Philippines-US: the last one.”
The Philippine military and US Marines are to hold annual amphibious landing exercises from Oct. 4 to 12.
Duterte pledged to honor a longstanding security treaty with the US, but said he will end military drills as China opposes such activities.
The remarks mark one of the strongest signs yet of fissures in a historic alliance that Washington has relied upon as it tries to cement its influence in Asia to counterbalance China’s rise, Reuters noted.
Philippines foreign minister later said Duterte’s comments had been taken out of context.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said he was not aware of any official notification from the Philippines about ending joint exercises.
“Our focus is on the relationship today and moving it forward,” Kirby said at a regular news briefing in Washington.
Duterte said he will establish “new alliances for trade and commerce” with Russia and China, while maintaining security agreements with Washington.
His near-daily outbursts against Washington began in earnest last month, when he spoke of alleged atrocities a century ago by the US when it was the Philippines’ colonial ruler.
He has called President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and said he would order the pullout of the remaining US special forces stationed in the Philippines’ restive south.
Duterte told a gathering of the Filipino community in Hanoi Wednesday that there will be no chance of naval patrols with US because they risk dragging the Philippines into conflict with China.
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