Philippines' Duterte says he wants US troops out in two years

The US has around 50,000 troops in the Philippines as a counterbalance against Chinese influence in the region.

Innocent people and children killed in Philippines drug war are 'collateral damage', says Duterte
Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a message before leaving for Brunei Reuters

Philippines President Rodrigo Dutere, who has been blowing hot and cold over US ties, said on Wednesday he doesn't want foreign troops in his country, in a clear reference to the US military personnel stationed in the Southeast Asian country.

"I want to be friends to China ... I do not need the arms. I do not want missiles established in my country. I do not need to have the airports to host the bombers," Duterte said in Tokyo.

Duterte said he wanted his country to be free of foreign troops within two years. The US has around 50,000 military personnel in the Philippines as a counterbalance against Chinese influence in the region.

The American troops are in the Philippines as part of a long-term military alliance. Manila is one of the strongest allies of the US outside of the Nato.

Duterte, who made significant overtures towards conventional enemy China before and during a much hyped visit to Beijing, said he wants to pursue an independent foreign policy.

For this to happen, he wants to send the American troops back home, he said. "I want them out ... I may have ruffled the feelings of some but that is how it is. We will survive, without the assistance of America, maybe a lesser quality of life, but as I said, we will survive," the controversial president said.

Cutting ties with US

Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to discuss foreign policy matters and regional issues in the backdrop of Manila's perceived tilt towards China, in their meeting on Wednesday.

Duterte sparred with the US bitterly over the extrajudicial killings he ordered as part of his anti-drug war. He then cast aspersions on President Obama, using expletives to express his frustration over constantly being told by the Big Brother on how he should run his country.

He said he was prepared to cut ties with the US and stop being dependent on the long-term ally for the defence needs. He said the US can "go the hell" and that Philippines would stop the joint patrols of the South China Sea with the US. And he said he would import arms from Russia and China.

Before the trip to China Duterte said he was willing to hold military drills with China but refused to do so with the United States, a long-time ally.

While in China, he said: "I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there...So time to say goodbye my friend." He also clinched a promise from China on South China Sea talks, which haven't taken place between the countries in several years.

However, after returning to the Philippines, Duterte tweaked the brash declaration on US relations he made in China and clarified he was not closing diplomatic ties with the United States, a longtime ally of the Philippines.

"What I was saying is separation of foreign policy that it need not dovetail with the foreign policy of America. That's what I meant. 'Sever' is to cut. 'Separate' is just to chart another way of doing things'," he explained.