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Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 22:01

Duterte, Abe sign military, economic deals

By Agencies

Duterte, Abe sign military, economic deals
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, speaks as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens during a joint press conference following their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo , Oct 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)

TOKYO — The leaders of Japan and the Philippines agreed Wednesday to cooperate in promoting regional peace and stability, and acknowledged the importance of their alliances with the US, although a joint statement focused largely on Japan's contribution to Philippine maritime security and other projects totaling a 21 billion yen ($210 million) loan.

In a news conference, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, after his first round of talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said he expected Japan to continue being an important part of maritime security in the region.

There, they did not mention their security alliances with the US. But in a statement issued later, the two sides acknowledged the importance of "their network of friendship and alliances," particularly one between them. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters that their alliances with the US were recognized, though not in writing.

Duterete, in his second round of talks only among close aides, reassured Abe that he has no intention to severe diplomatic ties with the US, Hagiuda said.

Since Duterte took office in June, Manila's relationship with Washington has quickly become strained.

Japan is a staunch US ally and hosts 50,000 American troops, while Duterte has repeatedly spoken of distancing his country from Washington, often in crude terms.

Earlier Wednesday, Duterte said that he wants his country to be free of foreign troops , possibly within two years. "I want them out," he said.

"I want to be friends to China ," he told an audience of businesspeople in Tokyo. "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."

"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

Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine President

As president, Duterte has reached out to Beijing while criticizing US foreign policy.

Officials declined to provide details of their second round of talks, in which Abe was expected to ask Duterte specifically about his foreign policy.

The Philippine leader spoke about the US at the end of his prepared remarks on economic development and investment, saying he was addressing what he knows is "what is in everybody's mind."

"I may have ruffled the feelings of some, but that is how it is," he said. "We will survive, without the assistance of America, maybe a lesser quality of life, but as I said, we will survive."

Duterte has announced cancelling planned joint military exercises with the United States, and preparatory meetings for next year's joint combat exercises between American and Filipino forces in the Philippines have been shrouded in uncertainty.

After the earlier official talks, Japan and the Philippines signed agreements including Japan's provision of two coast guard boats and T-90 military trainer aircraft as part of its contribution to step up Philippine maritime security capability. Japan also agreed to support infrastructure and agricultural promotion projects in the Philippines to help economic development.

"Japan will continue to play an important role in modernizing the capabilities of the Philippines" in maritime security, he said.

Duterte is on a three-day visit to Japan. After two rounds of talks with Abe, he is attending a banquet hosted by the Japanese leader. On Thursday, he is set to meet Emperor Akihito.

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