The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, says a joint military exercise scheduled to begin next week between his country and the United States will be the last between the two countries.
Duterte said the Philippines will honor its existing security treaties, but will not take part in any South China Sea patrols with the United States, in order to avoid getting dragged into any conflict between Washington and Beijing.
An annual joint amphibious landing exercise is due to begin Tuesday, Oct. 4. The nine-day exercise will take place in the northern part of the Philippines' main island, Luzon.
"So I am serving notice now to the Americans and to those around: I will maintain the military alliance because there is the R.P.-U.S. pact which our countries signed in the early '50s, but I will establish new alliances for trade and commerce,” Duterte said. “And [we] are scheduled to hold war games again, which China does not want. I would serve notice ... now that this will be the last military exercise. Jointly, Philippines-U.S., the last one."
Duterte said the Philippines would bow out of any future U.S.-led patrols in the South China Sea to avoid the possibility of any worsening of the existing territorial dispute with China. He denied his government was reluctant to assert its rights in the area, however.
"I will not join in the patrol in the China Sea,” he said. “There will never be an occasion that I will send grey ships [warships] there, not because I am afraid. … Anyway, I have this ruling of the international arbitration court which is that the South China Sea, the entitlements there are ours."
Earlier this month, Duterte called for the United States to withdraw special-forces units it has deployed in the southern Philippines. The American forces there have been advising local troops battling Muslim extremists.
Duterte has had a tumultuous relationship with the U.S. since becoming president in June, and he has openly criticized U.S. security policies.
One week ago, his critical comments about the United States and President Barack Obama resulted in cancellation of the two presidents' scheduled bilateral meeting at a summit in Laos. The two men did eventually hold an informal meeting before departing Laos.