‘It will save a lot of money’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 14, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:01 AM, February 14, 2020

‘It will save a lot of money’

Trump says he does’t mind if Manila cuts military pact

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he did not mind Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to end a decades-old military agreement with the United States, a position at odds with that of his defense secretary who viewed the move with dismay.

Duterte on Tuesday announced termination of the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the decision "unfortunate" as Washington and its allies press China to abide by "international rules" in Asia.

The US embassy in Manila called it "a serious step with significant implications." Duterte's decision, sparked by the revocation of a US visa held by a former police chief who led Duterte's bloody war on drugs, takes legal effect in 180 days and US officials have expressed hope it can be reversed or delayed.

"I don't really mind if they would like to do that, it will save a lot of money," Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about Duterte's move and whether anything could be done to get him to reconsider. "My views are different from others," he added.

Trump has frequently expressed a desire to bring US military forces home from decades-long deployments abroad and has strong-armed some allies into paying more for the right to U.S. defense.

Trump said the United States had helped the Philippines defeat Islamic State militants. He said he had "a very good" relationship with Duterte and added: "we'll see what happens."

Duterte's decision could complicate US military interests in the broader Asia-Pacific region as China's ambitions rise. Some Filipino senators quickly sought to block the move, arguing Duterte had no right to unilaterally scrap international pacts the country's senate had ratified.

The VFA is important to the overall US-Philippines alliance and sets out rules for U.S. soldiers operating in the Philippines, a former US territory. Washington has called the relationship "ironclad," despite Duterte's complaints that include allegations of U.S hypocrisy and ill treatment.

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