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Philippines’ Duterte to forge closer ties with China, Russia


    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits the Philippine Army Scout Rangers on Sept. 10 at their headquarters at Camp Tecson in San Miguel township, north of Manila, Philippines.

MANILA >> Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said today he has decided to “cross the Rubicon” in his ties with the United States and will open trade alliances and offer long-term land leases to “the other side of the ideological barrier,” China and Russia.

He told reporters he was “not really” breaking ties with the U.S., his country’s long-time treaty ally, but will open all areas of trade and commerce to China and Russia. It would not include military alliances, he said.

He said the two countries’ companies would be able to lease land in the Philippines for up to 120 years.

Duterte said he will travel to China soon to talk to President Xi Jinping, and then to Japan and Russia.

Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S., which has criticized his crackdown on illegal drugs in which more than 3,000 people have died.

During a summit of East Asian leaders in Laos earlier this month, Duterte said he told Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Mevedev that he was “about to cross the Rubicon” with the United States, at least during the six years of his presidential term.

“I would need your help in everything — trade, commerce — and I will open up,” he said he told Mevedev.

Asked by a reporter what he meant by crossing the Rubicon, he said it was “a point of no return.” He said the problem was that the Philippines’ mutual defense treaty with the U.S. does not guarantee that Washington will come to the Philippines’ defense if it is attacked because the U.S. president would need the approval of Congress.

U.S. Embassy officials were not available for comment Monday night.

Reacting to concerns expressed by the S&P Global credit rating agency that the predictability of policymaking had decreased under his presidency and that extrajudicial killings could undermine respect for the rule of law, Duterte dared investors to leave.

“Withdraw your investments, go ahead, be my guest,” he said. “I will open up to the other side of the ideological barrier — China, Russia, come.”

He lashed out against the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Australia for criticizing the deaths in his campaign against illegal drugs.

“They should not scare me about the extrajudicial killings, or else I will also demand that the United States of America and EU be investigated alongside with me because they have committed far more injustice and have done horrific things,” he added, calling them “hypocrites.”

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