Unpredictability, thy name is Duterte. Reuters relays the latest outburst from the volatile President of the Philippines:
“I am serving notice now to the Americans, this will be the last military exercise,” Duterte told a gather of the Filipino community in Hanoi, referring to next month’s joint marine exercise with the Philippines’ former colonial master.
Duterte added that there would be no chance of joint naval patrols with Washington and that the notion that there was conflict between the Philippines and China was “more imaginary”.
Earlier this week, Duterte was talking up alliance-building with Russia and China. The White House, for its part, has studiously avoided commenting on every outburst. Reuters consulted an expert who presumably echoes Obama Administration thinking:
“One could say that the U.S.-Philippines relationship might become strained and even shaken,” Jacobson told Reuters, but he doubts if it will be broken.
“The U.S. geopolitical stakes in the region are much too high to react to his hyperbole. The current attitude in Washington is mature – more of patience than feeling provoked.”
There is no use hyperventilating in public about the gyrations of the Philippine populist, but one would hope that serious diplomatic work is being done behind the scenes. Having the Philippines definitively peel off for China at this juncture would not be a good thing.