Duterte says open to joint patrols with Japan in South China Sea, as meeting with emperor is cancelled
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday his country could join naval exercises with Japan in Philippine “territorial waters” in the South China Sea, but repeated there would be no more war games with long-time ally the United States and again gave vent to his anger against Washington.
Duterte also said he had explained to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in talks on Wednesday just why he resented the United States, reiterating that Washington treated the Philippines like “dogs on a leash” and lectured about human rights in connection with his domestic campaign against drugs.
Watch: Philippine’s Duterte in high-profile visit to Japan
The Philippine leader’s visit to Japan coincides with jitters about his foreign policy after weeks of verbal attacks on the United States, including threats to end military agreements, and overtures towards China.
Duterte last week announced in China his “separation” from the United States, but then insisted ties were not being severed and that he was merely pursuing an independent foreign policy.
A scheduled call by Duterte on Japanese Emperor Akihito, 82, was cancelled following the death on Thursday of Akihito’s 100-year-old uncle, Prince Mikasa.
“Joint exercise with Japan in general terms is not a problem. Stationing of Japanese troops was not discussed and with the Americans, it’s problematic,” Duterte told reporters one day after saying he wanted foreign troops out of his country “maybe in the next two years”.
“I don’t want to embarrass my defence secretary but the exercises with the Americans will be the last,” he said.
Asked if Japanese patrol vessels could take part in patrols in South China Sea waters off the Philippines, “Yes, within our territorial waters.”
“If you want, we have no problem with that. I do not think China would stop us. Japan would just be going there and making a cruise. As a matter of fact, I also told them, they can also go near my territorial waters, and park there if you want.”
Duterte thanked Japan for providing vessels to the Philippines to help it patrol its waters, including inland waters, especially light ones like rubber boats that provide greater mobility.
Duterte, on the final day of a three-day visit to Japan, made the comments after watching Japan Coast Guard activities in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Duterte’s recent comments pose a headache for Abe, who has tightened ties with Washington while building closer security relations with Manila and other Southeast Asian countries as a counterweight to a rising China, which has maritime feuds with several countries in the region including Japan.
In their Wednesday talks, Duterte and Abe agreed on the importance of settling maritime disputes peacefully.
Duterte said he had explained to Abe why he was angry with the United States.
“I had told the prime minister some of my sentiments against the Americans. They are treating us like dogs on a leash,” he said. “The prime minister understands that.”
He suggested that Abe merely listened without responding, saying that “to his eternal credit, (Prime) Minister Abe is a very courteous man.”
Also on Thursday, Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said his country was still a good place for foreign investment and that the Philippines would welcome investment from the United States though it was particularly interested in trade agreements with Asian neighbours.
Additional reporting by Kyodo