Next week, the U.S. and the Philippines will open exploratory talks on salvaging their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. This comes after a month of renewed drama that has come to typify the hot-and-cold relationship between the U.S. and its oldest security treaty ally in Asia. In late December, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for a comprehensive review of the treaty for updating. A week later, he announced that Manila had begun studying the possibility that the pact could be scrapped altogether.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to withdraw from the treaty repeatedly since his election in 2016. Duterte says a lot of things, often changes his mind before the sun has set over Manila Bay, and is mostly incapable of fundamentally restructuring Philippine foreign policy to his personal tastes, anyway. But this particular warning came from Lorenzana – an advocate for robust U.S.-Philippine ties, a former attache to the Pentagon, and a Philippine defens