The Philippines military said Thursday it has received a letter from the Chinese Embassy in Manila asking it not to revise a mutual defense treaty with the United States, the latest in a series of moves aimed at undermining President Rodrigo Duterte’s defense of Washington and the US-Philippines alliance.
The letter, which was dated Tuesday and signed by Zhang Yijun, the director general of the Chinese embassy’s department of international affairs, advised Manila to address bilateral issues, while leaving the two countries’ security relationship to be worked out between the two governments, said Philippine military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
It is the first letter that is coming from Beijing since Duterte began criticizing Washington and the United States, which is the traditional ally of the Philippines, and said he would review Washington’s bases on the southern island of Mindanao.
If China had any objection to Manila’s review of its defense treaty with the United States, it would not have sent a letter, Padilla said. “It’s a show of charm,” he said.
China’s decision to send a letter ahead of the resumption of talks between the Philippines and Beijing on a regular defense pact with Washington has further undercut Duterte’s defense of the U.S.-Philippines alliance.
Padilla said the Philippines had still not received a reply from the Chinese government to their delegation’s views on the treaty review.
The joint defense treaty between the two countries has been discussed for years and was included in an action plan signed last year on strengthening ties amid the frequent spats between China and the Philippines, including a bitter maritime dispute.
Duterte has long railed against the U.S. for what he said is a history of bullying and interfering in the internal affairs of the Philippines. But Duterte has repeatedly stressed he believes that the U.S. should maintain a strong military alliance with the Philippines, despite being uncomfortable with the 65-year-old mutual defense treaty, due to it.