In an exclusive interview, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte discusses his war on drugs and foreign policy.
Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out at the United States for halting a planned sale of 26,000 rifles to his country, calling those behind the decision “fools” and “monkeys” and indicating that he might turn to Russia and China for the weapons instead.
Duterte said in a televised speech on Wednesday that he had “lost respect” for Washington.
“Look at these monkeys, the 26,000 firearms we wanted to buy, they don’t want to sell,” he said.
He added that Russia and China had shown a willingness to sell arms to the Philippines, but he would wait to see if his military wanted to continue using US weapons.
“Russia, they are inviting us. China also. China is open, anything you want, they sent me brochure saying we select there, we’ll give you.
“But I am holding off because I was asking the military if they have any problem. Because if you have, if you want to stick to America, fine.
“But, look closely and balance the situation, they are rude to us.”
The US State Department halted the sale of the assault rifles to the Philippine police after staff from US Senator Ben Cardin’s office said he would oppose it, Senate aides told Reuters news agency on Monday.
Aides said Cardin, the top Democrat on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was reluctant for Washington to provide the weapons given concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines during Duterte’s bloody, four-month-old war on drugs.
More than 2,300 people have been killed in police operations or by suspected vigilantes as part of Duterte’s anti-narcotics effort, which was the linchpin of his election campaign.
Duterte has vented his anger at the US for raising concerns about the extra-judicial killings.
“That’s why I was rude at them, because they were rude at me,” he said.
According to procedures in Washington, the State Department informs Congress when international weapons sales are in the works.
Aides said the State Department had been informed that Cardin would oppose the deal during the pre-notification process, thus effectively halting the sale.
“Committee staff told State that Cardin would block it if it was sent forward. They haven’t sent it. Does that mean it has been stopped? I guess that depends on your definition. It would be highly unusual for State to move it forward with explicit opposition,” a Senate aide said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said he was barred from commenting on the status of the sale, while stressing that the US commitment to the important US-Philippines alliance.
“The department is restricted under federal regulations from commenting on the status of commercial export licence approvals of proposed commercial defence sales,” Kirby said at a daily news briefing.
“So we’re going to stay also committed to working closely with members of Congress to deliver security assistance to our allies and partners worldwide, including the Philippines,” he said.
Since becoming president in June, Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the US as well as with President Barack Obama, and has declared intentions to bolster relations with China and Russia as he revamps Philippine foreign policy that has long leaned on Washington.
Last month, Obama cancelled a planned first meeting with Duterte on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Laos after the Filipino leader blurted out “son of a bitch” in warning the US leader not to lecture him on human rights ahead of their meeting.
Duterte later expressed regrets over his remarks.