Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Japan is focused on harvesting economic benefits, but Manila will not sacrifice its interests to build ties with Tokyo, according to Chinese state media.
The commentary from the People’s Daily’s overseas edition was published on Wednesday ahead of Duterte’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.
Duterte arrived in Japan late on Tuesday for a three-day visit. His trip comes after he signed US$24 billion worth of investment deals with Beijing last week.
The Philipine president’s freewheeling style and anti-American rhetoric has worried Japanese policymakers as Manila appears to be pivoting away from the United States to China, its major geopolitical rival.
During Duterte’s visit in Japan this week, Tokyo would try to figure out Manila’s real intention, the People’s Daily commentary said.
It would likely seize on the opportunity to sow discord between Beijing and Manila by complicating the South China Sea issue, according to the commentary.
“But the Philippines will not blindly follow Japan’s lecture, and what Duterte wants is Philippine’s national security and economic development; its diplomacy serves its domestic interests,” the commentary said.
“The Philippines wants to benefit from a peaceful environment and diversified partnership. Complicating the South China Sea issue for the sake of the United States and Japan and being hostile towards China is not in the Philippine’s long-term interest. We urge Japan not to become a troublemaker under the guise of active pacifism.”
Abe, who has boosted ties with Washington in a bid to counter Beijing, has sought to improve Manila’s defence capabilities by providing it with more than US$300 million in loans for patrol vessels.
Under an aid deal, Japan is expected to extend loans to financial institutions in Mindanao to help farmers expand their businesses and improve productivity.
“We want to work on developing our strategic partnership even further at the summit,” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.
Duterte echoed Suga’s words in an interview with Japanese media before his arrival in Tokyo, saying that the Philippines’ relationship with Japan was deep and special.
He added that the Philippines’ military alliance with the US would remain and that he had no plans to develop defence ties with China, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported.