• Kyodo

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte assured Japanese business leaders Wednesday that his country’s increased engagement with China is limited to economics.

In spontaneous remarks made after delivering a prepared speech at the Philippine Economic Forum on the second day of his three-day visit, Duterte said there were no talks “about arms,” about “stationing of troops,” and “alliances, military or otherwise” when he visited China to meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping and other leaders last week.

“What happened really there was just a few platforms where investments could come in,” said Duterte, who has caused concerns in some quarters by embracing China and rejecting the United States after the longtime ally criticized his bloody anti-drugs campaign.

“I want to be friends with China. (But) I do not need the arms. I do not want missiles established in my country,” he said.

After weeks of hitting out against the United States for meddling in his country’s domestic affairs, and even cursing U.S. President Barack Obama, Duterte announced in Beijing that the Philippines would “separate” from the United States — only to clarify later that he did not mean severing ties but rather pursuing an independent foreign policy and lessening his country’s dependence on the United States.

“Without the assistance of America, there will be a lesser quality of life,” he told the Japanese businesspeople at the forum in Tokyo organized by the Japan External Trade Organization.

“But (as) I said, we will survive. And if there is one thing I would like to prove to America and to everybody, it is that there is such a thing as the dignity of the Filipino people,” he said.

“I would never allow our dignity and honor to be just like a doormat before the international public. I will not allow. So I may have ruffled the feelings of some, but that is how it is.”

In the same speech, Duterte expressed his desire for the Philippines to be free of the presence of foreign military troops, “maybe in the next two years.”

The Philippines hosts American troops on a temporary basis based on existing agreements anchored on the two countries’ 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. Aside from the United States, the Philippines has struck a visiting forces agreement with Australia.

“I want them out,” Duterte said, referring to foreign military troops. “If I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will.”

Touching on his controversial anti-drugs campaign, which has received flak for allegedly triggering extrajudicial killings and violations of human rights, Duterte denied there have been “state-sponsored killings.”

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