Philippines’ Duterte threatens to end military deal with the United States

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Philippines’ Duterte threatens to end military deal with the United States

  • Duterte vented his anger over the US decision to deny entry to Ronaldo dela Rosa
  • US embassy in the Philippines did not explain why his visa had been canceled

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned the United States on Thursday he would repeal an agreement on deployment of troops and equipment for exercises if Washington did not reinstate the visa of a political ally.
Visibly upset, Duterte vented his anger over the US decision to deny entry to Ronaldo dela Rosa, a former police chief who is now a senator.
Dela Rosa said the US embassy in the Philippines did not explain why his visa had been canceled but that he believed it was most likely because of allegations of extrajudicial killings during his more than two-year term as police chief.
Dela Rosa was the chief enforcer of Duterte’s anti-narcotics crackdown, which has resulted in deaths of more than 5,000 people, mostly small-time drug dealers. Police say victims were shot by officers in self-defense.
“If you do not do the correction, one, I will terminate the bases, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” Duterte said in a wide-ranging speech before former Communist rebels. “I am giving the government and the American government one month from now.”
The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, accorded legal status to thousands of US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.
Delfin Lorezana, Duterte’s defense minister, declined to comment when asked if he agreed with the president’s plan.
Duterte makes no secret of his disdain for the United States and what he considers its hypocrisy and interference, though he acknowledges that most Filipinos and his military have high regard for their country’s former colonial ruler.
The United States is the Philippines’ biggest defense ally and millions of Filipinos have relatives who are US citizens.
Last month, Duterte banned US senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy from visiting the Philippines after they introduced a provision in the US Congress.
The provision calls the ban on US entry to anyone involved in locking up Philippine senator Leila de Lima, a former justice minister and Duterte’s top critic who was jailed in 2017 on drug charges after leading an investigation into thousands of deaths during the anti-narcotics campaign.
She has won numerous awards from human rights groups, which consider her a prisoner of conscience.
The US Embassy in Manila could not immediately be reached for comment outside office hours.


Seoul endorses aid to North Korea for coronavirus

A nurse takes the temperature of a woman at an entrance of a Pyongyang hospital. (AFP)
Updated 04 April 2020

Seoul endorses aid to North Korea for coronavirus

  • According to the Unification Ministry, South Korea is committed to spending about $5.7 million on aid to North Korea this year

SEOUL: South Korea has approved assistance to provide anti-viral supplies to its northern neighbor for combating COVID-19, although the regime claims that there is no single confirmed case of the virus overwhelming societies around the globe.
The approval was granted on Tuesday to a nonprofit organization, which will send hand sanitizers worth about $81,000 to the North, the Unification Ministry on North Korean affairs confirmed on Thursday.
“The civic organization met the requirements for North Korean aid,” a ministry spokesman told reporters, declining to share details on the identity of the private organization. “The supplies were funded by the group.”
This marked the first time this year that the South Korean government has allowed a civilian aid group to provide assistance to the poverty-stricken North, while inter-Korean relations reached a low-ebb with the prolonged stalemate over Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament effort.
International non-governmental organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, reportedly donated medical equipment to the communist regime, using a checkpoint in the border city of Dandong in China.
In March, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that $840,000 was needed to help North Korea during the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF said that it donated glasses, masks, gloves and thermometers that could be used in North Korea to fight the spread of the virus.
The latest approval of the disinfectant shipment could set the stage for expanding assistance to the North at government level, said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification.
“I see the possibility that the level of assistance to the North would be expanded further,” the researcher said. “As Pyongyang appears to do its utmost to combat the spread of COVID-19, both Koreas would possibly be able to work together on health issues.”

HIGHLIGHT

The approval was granted to a nonprofit organization, which will send hand sanitizers worth about $81,000 to the North.

According to the Unification Ministry, South Korea is committed to spending about $5.7 million on aid to North Korea this year. The funds represent more than 60 percent of total global funding for aid to North Korea this year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) website.
On March 1, President Moon Jae-in proposed cross-border cooperation in medicine and public health during his address marking the country’s Independence Day from Japanese colonial rule. In return, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded on March 4 by stating that he “wholeheartedly wished that the health of our brothers and sisters in the South are protected.”
But the North has conducted tests of short-range rockets and missiles three times since then, pouring cold water on relations with the South.
Experts have warned North Korea is vulnerable to the pandemic due to its weak health care system amid speculation that Pyongyang has covered up an outbreak.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s coronavirus cases topped 10,000 on Friday amid a slowdown in new infections. The country reported 86 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 10,062 and marked the 22nd consecutive day that new infections have hovered around 100 or fewer additional cases, according to health authorities.
The death toll rose by five to 174, with more than half of fatalities being patients aged 80 or over.