Duterte Cancels U.S. Drills, Will Visit Beijing
In a ceremony Wednesday, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte commissioned a new patrol boat provided by Japan. But Duterte used only a small portion of the ceremony to discuss the vessel and to thank the Japanese government: as in other recent appearances, he primarily used the opportunity to criticize Western governments for their objections to his paramilitary war on drugs, which international observers credit with over 3,600 extrajudicial killings since Duterte took office.
Specifically, in response to the diplomatic pressure, Duterte said that he has issued orders to the Philippine military that it should not make preparations for joint U.S. military exercises next year. "I insist that we realign, that there will be no more exercises next year, 'Do not prepare,' I told Defense Secretary Lorenzana," he said.
Lorenzana recently said that he had tried to explain the value of drills with U.S. forces to Duterte, who has argued that the exercises only benefit America.
A planned joint drill was ended a day early on Tuesday, and Duterte said that it should be the last.
Duterte also opposes joint naval patrols with American vessels in the South China Sea. U.S. destroyers have conducted several freedom of navigation transits of the waters off Chinese-occupied land features in the Spratly chain in order to counteract China's extensive claims, and American naval vessels regularly operate in the region.
Despite his opposition to many forms of military cooperation, Duterte says that he wishes to continue a 65-year-old mutual defense treaty that guarantees U.S. assistance to the Philippines in time of war.
A recent report by NPR links Duterte’s distrust of American forces with alleged atrocities in 1901 and 1906, early in the U.S. colonial era.
Separately, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that China was pleased with Duterte's recent decision to make a diplomatic visit to Beijing.
"We commend President Duterte's attachment of importance to China-Philippines relations, and believe that high-level exchanges will contribute to bilateral friendly cooperation and regional peace, stability, development and prosperity," Geng said in a press briefing.