As Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte continues to distance himself from the West, moving instead toward regional powerhouse China, an official from China’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that the controversial leader of the Philippines will meet with the Chinese president next week in Beijing.
As Reuters reports:
“China confirmed on Wednesday that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will visit China next week, as the Southeast Asian leader’s relationship with traditional ally the United States frays.
“Under Duterte, Manila’s relations with Washington have come under strain and the recently elected president has opted to put aside years of hostility with China, especially over the disputed South China Sea, to form a new partnership.”
The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Duterte would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as Premier Li Keqiang, on a visit set to begin on October 18.
“China looks forward to increasing mutual trust between the two countries,” Geng said, “deepening practical cooperation and continuing the tradition of friendship via the visit of President Duterte.”
But Duterte won’t be alone. Joining him will be 250 Philippine business executives, all “eager to talk with Chinese business leaders and government officials about deals in a range of sectors, from rail, and construction to tourism, agribusiness, power and manufacturing,” according to Reuters.
This falls perfectly in line with statements made by Duterte in September, when the president told reporters the Philippines had reached a “point of no return” with the U.S. and expressed a desire to “open alliances with China.”
“I will open up the Philippines for them to do business, alliances of trade and commerce,” he said.
Since then, however, Duterte’s animosity toward the U.S. has grown considerably, with Anti-Media reporting last week that the Filipino president actually dared the CIA to attempt to oust him from power.
“Be my guest. I don’t give a shit,” he told the press while speaking in his hometown of Davao.
The whole situation — the U.S. possibly losing an ally to a nation it’s currently on the brink of naval warfare with — is complicated further when considering events taking place just north of the Philippines, off the eastern coast of China.
There, longtime U.S. ally Japan is squaring off against China over territorial rights to the East China Sea. Japan, which has already implemented plans to construct a missile defense system to protect what it purports to be its national interests, has also begun sending out coast guard patrols to hunt Chinese fishing vessels it says are operating illegally.
At the same time, the U.S., Japan, and South Korea recently conducted their first ever joint naval drills in a show of cooperation amid concerns over the much-hyped North Korean nuclear threat. This week, in fact, the navies of the U.S. and South Korea are conducting a series of exercises that simulate strikes on North Korean nuclear facilities.
China, however, has never bought the North Korea excuse. It’s stipulated all along the U.S. is using these drills as a pretext to prepare for a preemptive strike against Chinese interests, as China’s state-run People’s Daily wrote in early October:
“Like any other country, China can neither be vague nor indifferent on security matters that affect its core interests. If the United States and South Korea harm the strategic security interests of countries in the region including China, then they are destined to pay the price for this and receive a proper counter attack.”