Duterte's Defiance

His Threat to Upend Washington's Pivot to Asia

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte walks between meetings at the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos, September 6, 2016. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

In a year of global populism, no world leader has been more conspicuous than Rodrigo Duterte, the new Philippine president. But Duterte’s inflammatory rhetoric and reactionary policies have trickled into foreign and security policy matters, too, threatening to upend Washington’s pivot to Asia. Most recently, Duterte announced that he was suspending joint military patrols and exercises with the United States and would expel all U.S. military personnel from the islands in two years. Should Duterte carry through on all his threats, the result would be a dramatic reversal of fortune for the United States and a major shift in Asia’s balance of power. There may be no more pressing Asian issue for the next president than salvaging U.S.-Philippine relations before it is too late.


Such a potentially precipitous collapse of ties between formal treaty allies is rare. One might compare it

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