Defense Secretary Mark Esper is a little concerned about the Philippines' decision to scrap a defense pact with the United States, but his boss thinks it's no big deal.
The Visiting Forces Agreement was signed in 1998, allowing U.S. troops, ships, and aircraft to visit the Philippines and train soldiers, conduct joint exercises, and assist with counterterrorism efforts. But Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has been pivoting away from the U.S. and toward China since he took office, so it's no surprise Esper isn't thrilled. The Pentagon chief said he thinks the Philippines is moving "in the wrong direction."
As for President Trump? He doesn't seem too bothered. When asked about the decision Wednesday, Trump said he really doesn't mind, not least of all because it will likely save the U.S. money down the road. The president acknowledged his view likely differs from other officials, but he affirmed he has a good relationship with Duterte (who has drawn international criticism for some authoritarian measures) and added that the U.S. already helped defeat the Islamic State's presence in the country.
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