Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said the United States “practically drove me into the waiting arms of the Chinese government” during a speech to an audience of Filipino-Chinese businessmen in Malacanang, the Philippines’ Inquirer reported on 6 August.
“You were the ones responsible," said Duterte, referring to the US-Philippines dispute over the sale of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP), a move that was opposed by the US legislature. "You had two congressmen there. Took the floor in the US Congress to denounce me as a violator of human rights and everything,” Duterte added.
In 2016 the US legislators halted the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines. The sale was strongly opposed by the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Ben Cardin, who criticised Duterte for alleged human rights violations.
Duterte argues that this move forced him to develop closer relations with China and Russia in a search for new sources of arms. Duterte added that Russia and China did not ask for anything in return for military aid.
The Philippines’ president previously “dared” the US to “bring planes and boats to the South China Sea” amid a territorial dispute over the area currently claimed by seven nations in the region, arguing that the war with China “can never be won.”
Duterte has also been criticised by his opponents for setting aside the 2016 ruling of the international court of arbitration in the Hague that rejected China’s claim to historic sovereignty over large territories in the South China Sea, in exchange for promises of large financial investments from China.
Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016 and immediately announced plans to move away from the US and towards establishing closer ties with China.