President Rodrigo Duterte with Secretary of State John F Kerry (wikicommons)

Ever since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in June, the world has started taking note of what is happening in the far eastern part of the world besides what North Korea dishes out intermittently.

In the latest salvo against the United States, President Duterte  has said that the U.S. can forget a bilateral defense deal with Philippines if he stays in power long. This statement was made on his way to Japan on Tuesday on an official visit. Japan is the biggest investor in Philippines  and increasingly nervous about his sudden ‘pivot’ toward China. Japan is also an ally of the United States, the perceived big bully, as seen by Duterte.

Dog With a  Leash

He said on Tuesday that he hated having foreign troops in the Philippines and warned the U.S. to not treat his country “like a dog with a leash”.

Duterte though assured his hosts Japan that he was not planning to change alliances and was only seeking to build trade and commerce with China, reports the quartz. Before embarking  on his state visit to Japan, the president  read out a statement  describing Japan as a true friend that had played a “preeminent and peerless role” as a big investor in the Philippines.

Duterte emphasized earlier that the U.S. should not bank  on an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the Philippines if he were to stay in charge longer.  Although, it is not clear what he means by staying in power longer as a president is allowed only one 6-year term by the constitution in Philippines.

“You have the EDCA, well forget it. If I stay here long enough,” he said. “I do not want to see any military man of any other nation except the Filipino. That’s the only thing I want.”

I Didn’t Start The Fight

This is the latest salvo in a series of unpredictable comments by Duterte,  who last week announced his separation from the United States on the eve of his visit to China. He later retracted the statement saying that he only wants to pursue an independent foreign policy from the United States.

Before embarking  on his state visit to Japan, the president  again lashed out  at the United States saying “I didn’t start the fight’.

President Duterte’s erratic behaviour is making the world nervous.

The president is already under scrutiny for his extra-judicial killings in his bid to get rid of the drug menace in his country. His overtures toward China and hostility to the United States are sure to upset the geopolitical balance in the region. Japan is trying to maintain the balance of power against Beijing by strengthening ties with Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Philippines;  but President Duterte seems hell-bent on upsetting the cart.

Adding  fuel to the fire are some news reports which are suggesting that Duterte may not contest  China’s South Sea aggressions, even though an international tribunal has ruled against China’s claims in that part of the sea.  But the world needs to wait and see how that issue plays out.


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