The Philippines is a strategic location for any military posturing, said President Donald Trump before leaving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila.
Trump cited the improving ties between the US and the Philippines after it was strained under the administration of former president Barack Obama.
“And now we have a very, very strong relationship with the Philippines, which is really important less so for trade in this case and for military purposes. It is a strategic location, the most strategic location,” Trump said in his speech Tuesday during the luncheon hosted by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Trump likened the Philippines to a “prime piece of real estate.”
“And if you look at it, it’s called the most prime piece of real estate from the military standpoint,” he said.
The US leader cited this as one of the reasons US should improve ties with the Philippines.
“So it’s very important that we get along with the Philippines and we really do. We have a good very good relationship. I would actually say, probably, better than ever before,” he said.
The Philippines has been home to US military bases and Trump’s apparent courting of the Philippines is a strategic move amid the growing security concern in the South China Sea and the threat of nuclear war in the Korean Peninsula.
Trump also told reporters that he had “a tremendously successful trip,” adding that a “tremendous amount of work was done on trade.”
The US leader spoke on the sidelines of the annual East Asia Summit of leaders from throughout the Asia-Pacific region, his final summit after attending a gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Monday.
Trump said he planned to make a “major statement” about his trip from the White House later this week. He also spoke of the “many good friends” he made during the trip.
Among Trump’s newest friends in the region is Duterte, whom Trump repeatedly praised and joked around with on Monday.
Duterte has overseen a bloody crackdown on domestic drug dealing that has featured extrajudicial killings, earning him scorn from human rights advocates. With a report from AP