Philippines, Japan Sign Deals

TOKYO (AP) -- The leaders of Japan and the Philippines agreed Wednesday to cooperate in promoting regional peace and stability and endorsed Japan's provision of patrol boats and military training aircraft to bolster Philippine maritime security, without discussing their alliances with the U.S., whose relationship with Manila has quickly become strained.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he expected Japan to continue playing an important role in maritime security in the region, including the South China Sea, where Manila has territorial disputes with Beijing. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said South China Sea disputes affect peace in the entire region and that he welcomed Duterte's recent efforts to improve ties with China.

Japan and the Philippines signed agreements including Japan's provision of two coast guard boats and T-90 military trainer aircraft as part of its contribution to step up Philippine maritime security capability. Japan also agreed to support infrastructure and agricultural promotion projects in the Philippines to help economic development.

The two leaders did not mention the Japan-U.S. security alliance, or one between the Philippines and Washington. Japan is a staunch U.S. ally and hosts 50,000 American troops, while Duterte, who took office this summer, has repeatedly spoken of distancing his country from Washington, often in crude terms.

The presence of U.S. troops in five Philippine military camps was established under a security deal signed under Duterte's predecessor as a counterbalance to China's growing military assertiveness in the region.

Earlier Wednesday, Duterte said that he wants his country to be free of foreign troops, possibly within two years. "I want them out," he said.

"I want to be friends to China," he told an audience of businesspeople in Tokyo. "I do not need the arms. I do not want missiles established in my country. I do not need to have the airports to host the bombers."

Since taking office at the end of June, Duterte has reached out to Beijing while criticizing U.S. foreign policy. His approach has caused consternation in both the U.S. and Japan.

Abe was expected to hold another round of talks with Duterte later Wednesday and was expected to ask him specifically about his foreign policy.

The Philippine leader spoke about the U.S. at the end of his prepared remarks on economic development and investment, saying he was addressing what he knows is "what is in everybody's mind."

"I may have ruffled the feelings of some but that is how it is," he said. "We will survive, without the assistance of America, maybe a lesser quality of life, but as I said, we will survive."

Duterte is on a three-day visit to Japan. After two rounds of talks with Abe, he is attending a banquet hosted by the Japanese leader. On Thursday, he is set to meet Emperor Akihito.