Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he wanted U.S. Special Forces out of the southern region and blamed America for inflaming Muslim insurgencies in the region. Speaking to newly appointed government officials, President Duterte did not offer specifics but he did make his position crystal clear. It was his first public statement opposing the use of U.S. armed forces.
“For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land,” he said.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that the Obama administration had heard of President Duterte’s comments, but was “not aware of any official communication by the Philippine government to that that effect and to seek that result.”
Mr. Duterte and Mr. Obama are far from friends or close allies. The Philippines president last week ahead of the ASEAN meetings said Mr. Obama was the “son of a whore,” which was widely reported only as “a son of a bitch.” He has also called him the latter.
“The special forces, they have to go. They have to go in Mindanao, there are many whites there, they have to go,” he said, adding that he was reorienting the country’s foreign policy. “I do not want a rift with America, but they have to go.”