No Change With Trump, Duterte Wants US Troops Gone Before He Leaves Office

REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte wants U.S. forces out of the Philippines before he leaves office in 2022.

“By the time I end my term, I do not want to see any—not only the U.S. but even African or Chinese or whatever—I do not want to see foreign military troops in my country,” Duterte said early Friday morning, The Wall Street Journal revealed.

“We are just facing rebellion; I do not expect any war against any country,” the president explained.

A small contingent of around 100 U.S. troops is stationed in the Philippines, where they support the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its operations in the southern Philippines against rebel Islamic militants.

Duterte previously threatened to end all war games and joint military exercises with the U.S. He also demanded American troops leave the Philippines within two years’ time. Furthermore, he vowed to tear up the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which gives the U.S. access to military bases in the Philippines.

Philippine National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said earlier this week that Duterte has agreed to maintain EDCA and preserve the Balikatan war games. Some joint military exercises, specifically landing and combat exercises, as well as joint patrols in the South China Sea, are still off the table. In the future, joint exercises will focus on counterterrorism, humanitarian relief, disaster response, and other relevant tasks. Duterte’s reversal on these issues suggested that he might be coming around on the U.S.

After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, Duterte was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate him. “Long live, Mr. Trump!” Duterte said. “I don’t want to quarrel anymore because Trump has won,“ he added.

Duterte respects strong leaders, and he seems to have a lot of respect for Trump. Both men are anti-establishment populist leaders known for their off-the-cuff remarks. The president of the Philippines has had far nicer things to say about Trump than President Barack Obama, who he called a “son of a whore” and told to “go to hell.”

Although Duterte is an apparent fan of Trump, he is still committed to the removal of U.S. troops. He said Friday that his pursuit of an independent foreign policy will continue.

“I will pursue what I’ve started. I am not in a habit of reneging on my word,” Duterte announced. He once again cast uncertainty over joint military exercises and EDCA. He has, however, toned down his “separation from America” rhetoric. Duterte also agreed to honor the treaties with the U.S., including the Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951.

Despite his opposition to U.S. troops, Duterte referred to the U.S. and the Philippines as “friends.”

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