Philippines President Duterte threatens to cancel major US arms deal

The often foul-mouthed, combative president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, lashed out again at the United States by announcing he wanted to cancel a purchase of 26,000 American assault rifles meant to go to Filipino police.

“The (rifles) that were ordered already. I am ordering the police to cancel it. We’ll just have to look for another source that is cheaper and maybe as durable and as good,” Duterte said.

The outspoken leader has faced backlash from around the world since he took office June 30th, much of it focused on his threats to kill drug suspects on a massive scale. The drug war has killed as many as 4,100 people in just four months, AFP reported.

Critics including Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have claimed the U.S. should reconsider its aid to the Philippines. The senator’s staff signaled that he was opposed to the deal, a Senate aide told The Wall Street Journal.

The weapons were intended for a “law enforcement assistance program” aimed at improving policing in foreign countries, specifically related to human rights, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina said.

This is not the first time Duterte has spoken out against the U.S.  Just last month, he announced his country’s “separation” from the United States while on a state visit to China and used a derogatory term to describe Obama, prompting the U.S. president to cancel a planned meeting with Duterte.

The U.S. and Philippines have an important military alliance, a union which is becoming more and more important as disputes in the Asian-Pacific region become more pronounced. While Duterte routinely announces his disdain over Western influence, he does still rely on advice from his top military brass, most whom who have strong ties to the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.