Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, (26 October) assured Japan that his visit to China last week was about economics and he had no intention of forging a military alliance with China. He reiterated that he intends to pursue an independent foreign policy, one that does not start fights with friends.
In a speech to Japan's investment forum in Tokyo on Wednesday, he said: "You know I went to China for a visit. And I would like to assure you that all there was, was economics. We did not talk about arms. We did not talk about stationing of troops. We avoided talking about alliances."
He also told the audience in Tokyo that he wants foreign military troops out of the Philippines, possibly in the next two years. He could revoke defence treaties with the US, he added.
"I have declared that I will pursue an independent foreign policy. I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops. I want them out. And if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, this shall be the last maneuver, war games between the United States and the Philippines military."
He said that Japan is a "long standing friend and ally" and sought Japanese investment in infrastructure, agriculture and other sectors.
On his infamous drug war, Duterte emphasised he does not condone extra-judicial killings. "It was never a state-sponsored killing but those were the infightings of the police generals and some military men and a lot of policemen, 6,000 of them, cleansing and hoping they would make it clean before I assumed office," he said.
He lamented that his critics do not understand the scale of the Philippines drug problem. "Here are my friends, supposedly, making it hard for my country to solve and even to survive as a nation."
The leader's Japan visit comes amid tension about his foreign policy goals after weeks of verbal attacks against long-time ally Washington. He declared "separation" from the United States during his visit to China last week, but later said he was not cutting ties with the US but simply pursuing an independent foreign policy.
Duterte has threatened to abrogate all defence ties with the United States numerous times over the last two months but according to Reuters, he is yet to take any major action on the issue.
He will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later on Wednesday.
Duterte's increasing closeness to China has Tokyo and Washington reportedly worried that the commitment shown by former Philippines president Benigno Aquino to stand up to China in the disputed South China Sea issue is under threat.
However, he assured Japan that trade and investments were the focus of his China trip and not maritime disputes or military agreements. "We would like to make the guarantee that we will also be a partner in the player of maritime safety, maritime security in the China sea and that we would like to avoid at all costs violence because ... we have to resolve it peacefully and in accordance with international law."