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US defense chief Austin to meet Duterte with military pact on the line

Philippine ambassador bullish for a deal as Washington courts Southeast Asia

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, will be the first senior member of the Biden administration to visit Southeast Asia, with plans to meet Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON/MANILA -- U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during his tour of Southeast Asia starting Friday, the Philippine ambassador to the U.S. told Nikkei, as Washington works to save a pact at the heart of their military alliance.

Relations between the Philippines and the U.S. have been strained under Duterte, who has repeatedly expressed anti-American sentiment. He unilaterally decided in February 2020 to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides a legal framework for the U.S. military presence in the Philippines and is widely considered critical to maintaining their alliance. 

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