Friday, October 7, 2016

Philippines Suspends Patrols With U.S. in South China Sea

The Philippine defense chief said Friday that he had suspended participation in any joint patrols with the U.S. of the disputed South China Sea, the first concrete sign of a crack in the military alliance following the election of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Since taking office June 30, Mr. Duterte has caught U.S. officials and his own military off guard with seemingly off-the-cuff pronouncements with potentially far-reaching strategic implications. His aim, he said, is to loosen ties with the U.S. and give his Southeast Asian country a more “independent” foreign policy, with “new alliances” with China and Russia.
The Philippine military was still out of the loop. Asked about the president’s statement last week that he wants to end all military exercises with U.S. forces, Mr. Lorenzana said his department was still awaiting an official directive. “We heard it on TV,” he said.

Duterte has said he wanted the patrols halted to avoid antagonizing Beijing. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. spelled out the president’s position more explicitly in a Wednesday Facebook post entitled “America has failed us.” It was time for the Philippines to free itself from the “shackling dependency” on the U.S.—which ran the Philippines as a colony until 1946, he wrote.