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Philippines' Duterte ending joint U.S. military drills; foreign secretary disputes

By Andrew V. Pestano
Philippines' Duterte ending joint U.S. military drills; foreign secretary disputes
Phillipines President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday suggested the Philippines would no longer hold military exercises with the United States. Later in the day, his top diplomat said his comment was taken out of context -- adding that the president was referring to exercises in the South China Sea. Photo courtesy Malacañang Photo Bureau

HANOI, Vietnam, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said upcoming joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises would be the last between the two countries, but one diplomat in the Southeast Asian nation said the comment was taken out of context.

On Wednesday during a speech in a Filipino community during a visit to Hanoi, Vietnam, Duterte said he would respect his country's military alliance with the United States but he would seek to establish new economic allegiances, adding that he was "serving notice now to the Americans."

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"I will establish new alliances for trade and commerce," Duterte according to comments distributed by his presidential office.

"And you are scheduled to hold war games again, which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise," he added, directly addressing the United States.

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But Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Duterte meant only drills in the South China Sea would stop in order to improve economic relations with China.

Yasay, who was a teacher in Washington, D.C., for years, said Duterte was only repeating an earlier declaration which said he would not allow Philippine troops to participate in joint patrols of the South China Sea.

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"No, no, no, he did not say that at all," Yasay said. "What he said was that, as he said before, there will be no joint patrols with a grey ship of any nation in the South China Sea because that would be a provocative act ... but he said, he will continue to respect our treaty arrangements and commitments with the United States. He always says that."

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"You have to understand the president's statements in the context of what he was saying," Yasay added.

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