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US says it will work with Duterte

The United States said Sunday it will work with President Duterte to address any concerns after he threatened to terminate a pact that allows US troops to visit the Philippines.

Duterte was enraged after a US government aid agency deferred a vote on a renewal of a major development assistance package for the Philippines over concerns about extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s war on illegal drugs, which has left thousands dead.

Although no decision on the aid package has been taken, Duterte on Saturday launched an expletives-laden tirade, telling the US to “prepare to leave the Philippines, prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement.’’

He was referring to a 1998 accord that governs American forces visiting the Philippines for joint combat exercises.

The pact has helped the Philippines contain a violent Muslim insurgency in the south and train and equip Filipino forces facing an assertive China in disputed South China Sea waters.

“You know, tit for tat … if you can do this, so (can) we. It ain’t a one-way traffic,’’ Duterte said, adding tauntingly, “Bye-bye America.’’

The US Embassy in Manila said in a statement overnight that Washington will work closely with the Duterte administration to address any concerns it may have. It did not elaborate.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokesman Josh Earnest has said previously that the White House would not react publicly each time Duterte made an offhand remark.

The 71-year-old Duterte, who describes himself as a left-wing politician, has made similar threats before and after taking office in June, but he and his officials have walked back on many of his public statements, causing confusion.