>> Confusion in the ranks over Rodrigo Duterte's latest anti-US onslaught. On Wednesday, the Philippines' President dealt Washington another slap in the face, saying next week's joint naval drills will be the last ever.>> Jointly, Philippines, US, the last one.>> But a day later his Foreign Minister's gone into damage control mode, saying actually they'll continue into 2017 at least.
The trouble is, it's not clear what Duterte actually meant. Military exercises can refer to a lot more than just the one major set of drills that the two countries hold every year. Reuters Karen Lema says the President may just not know how to clearly say what he means.
>> There are actually 300 activities in a year involving training, military exercise, classroom, and tabletop simulations. This is not the first time that Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay had to clarify President Duterte's comments and pronouncements. For instance, he used the word alliance to refer to building trade and commerce relationship or partnership with China and Russia, when it actually should mean security.
Duterte had little exposure to foreign relations, given that he was mayor for 20 years before he won the presidency, so he has a steep learning curve. And, of course, it doesn't help that his officials always roll back the controversial statements that the President has made.>> Adding fuel to the fire, Duterte also ruled out any joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea on Wednesday, or at least that's how it came across.
The State Department says it hasn't heard of any official end to joint military drills. Though there's no doubt that whatever Duterte actually means, his latest comments throw the future of Washington's alliance with Manila into even deeper uncertainty.