Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plunged one of the United States' most important Asian alliances deeper into uncertainty on Wednesday by declaring upcoming U.S.-Philippines military exercises "the last," and ruling out any joint navy patrols.
The firebrand Duterte pledged to honor a longstanding security treaty with the United States, but said China opposed joint marine drills in the Philippines starting next week and there would be no more war games with Washington after that.
"I am serving notice now to the Americans, this will be the last military exercise," Duterte said during a visit to Vietnam. "Jointly, Philippines-U.S.: the last one."
Duterte's remarks gave one of the strongest signs yet of fissures in a historic alliance that Washington has relied upon as it tries to cement its influence in Asia to counterbalance China's rapid rise. Duterte's foreign minister later said his comments had been taken out of context.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said he was not aware of any official notification from the Philippines about ending joint exercises.
"Our focus is on the relationship today and moving it forward," Kirby told a regular news briefing. "We continue to believe that that's possible. ... (W)e have significant security commitments with the Philippines. We're committed to meeting those commitments and to furthering this relationship."