Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he wanted U.S. forces out of his country’s south and blamed America for the restiveness of Muslim militants in the region, marking the first time he publicly opposed the presence of American troops in the country.
Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S. since becoming president in June and has been openly critical of American security policies. As a candidate, he declared he would chart a foreign policy that would not depend on America, his country’s treaty ally.
At a recent meeting Duterte showed black-and-white pictures of what he described as Muslim Filipinos, including children and women, who were slain by U.S. forces in the early 1900s and dumped in a pit, with American soldiers standing around the mass grave in Bud Daho, a mountainous region in southern Sulu province.
“The special forces, they have to go. They have to go in Mindanao, there are many whites there, they have to go,” he said, adding he was reorienting the country’s foreign policy. “I do not want a rift with America, but they have to go.”