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Philippines notifies US of intent to end major security pact

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Tuesday notified the United States of its intent to terminate a major security pact allowing American forces to train in the country in the most serious threat to the countries’ treaty alliance under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet Manila’s notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement was received by the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. He refused to provide other details on the drastic step “as a diplomatic courtesy.”

Locsin signed the notice on orders of Duterte, who has often criticized U.S. security policies while praising those of China and Russia despite the Philippine military’s close historic ties with its American counterpart.

In a Senate hearing last week, Locsin warned that abrogating the security accord with Washington would undermine Philippine security and foster aggression in the disputed South China Sea. U.S. military presence in the strategic waterway has been seen as a crucial counterweight to China, which has claimed virtually the entire sea.

Locsin proposed a review of the agreement to fix contentious issues instead of abrogating it. Philippine defense and military officials did not immediately issue any reaction the government move.

The termination of the 1999 agreement would take effect 180 days after Washington received Manila’s notice but both could decide to keep the pact during the waiting period, Philippine officials said.

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