By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (AA) – President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Friday at the United States after one of its top defense officials cautioned the Philippines against buying military equipment from Russia.
He slammed Washington for blocking the Philippine military’s modernization and only giving Manila used and refurbished military equipment, including rusted choppers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that crashed and killed Filipino soldiers.
“Is that the way you treat an ally? And you want us to stay with you for all time?" said Duterte in a speech at an event in Davao City as quoted by local media.
"Who are you to warn us?”
Duterte dared U.S. officials to meet him at a forum and explain Washington’s opposition to the Philippines’ acquisition of Russian submarines, claiming it did not stop its other allies in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
His remarks came a day after U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver, who is in Manila to meet the country’s top defense and military officials, had warned the government against procuring military hardware from Russia, saying it was “not a helpful thing to do” in the U.S.-Philippines alliance.
Duterte loosened the Philippines' longstanding alliance with Washington following former President Barack Obama’s criticism of his war on drugs, instead seeking closer diplomatic and economic ties with Russia and China.
Meanwhile, in an unexpected move, Duterte again lashed out against China following its foreign ministry's statement reacting to his rant earlier this week, in which he told Beijing to temper its behavior in the South China Sea after China repelled foreign aircraft and ships it said had deliberately gotten close to its artificial islands there.
Duterte asserted the Philippines' claims on the group of islands in the disputed waters but reiterated that Manila is Beijing’s friend.
"I told you we are not prepared to go to war with you, so why do you have to say those nasty words?" he said.
He again emphasized that China cannot just create artificial islands in the disputed waters and claim sovereignty over the sea.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that while it respects other countries' freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, it asserted its right to call out foreign aircraft getting near its islands.