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US keen to work with new Philippines leader

/ 07:30 AM May 11, 2016
In this April 29, 2016, file photo, Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte answers questions from the media in Manila, Philippines. The upcoming Philippine presidential election could cause some heartburn in Washington. The winner of the vote on May 9 will be hand-maiden to the most crucial U.S. relationship in Southeast Asia, and front-runner Duterte has not inspired confidence with his casual threats to shoot criminals and by joking about the gang rape and killing of a foreign missionary. AP Photo

In this April 29, 2016, file photo, Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte answers questions from the media in Manila, Philippines. Duterte has emerged as the president-elect apparent after polling on May 9, 2016. The US State Department announced on Tuesday that it was keen on working with whoever is proclaimed as the Philippines’ new president. AP

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States said Tuesday it was keen to work with whoever wins the presidential election in the Philippines, after foul-mouthed populist Rodrigo Duterte claimed victory.

“We look forward to working with and congratulating the winner,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said, after the 71-year-old firebrand declared himself the winner of Monday’s voting.

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READ: Duterte twits US, Aussie envoys for ‘meddling’ in PH politics | If elected president, Duterte’s foreign policy to be lukewarm to US

Trudeau stressed that official results had not yet been confirmed, but said the United States would work with whichever candidate emerges on top.

“Washington respects the choice of the Philippines’ people. We will gladly work with the leader they’ve selected,” she added, without being drawn on some of Duterte’s more controversial statements.

Duterte, who has vowed a fierce crackdown on crime and corruption, has made no secret of his involvement in running vigilante death squads as mayor of Davao and waged an incendiary campaign.

Duterte dominated campaign media coverage and generated international headlines with his relentless gutter talk, branding the pope a “son of a whore” and boasting repeatedly about his Viagra-fueled affairs.

He caused further disgust in diplomatic circles by joking about a raped Australian missionary who was killed in a 1989 Philippine prison riot.

Duterte was enraged when the US and Australian ambassadors criticized his comments and even threatened to break ties with Washington, one of the Philippines’ closest allies.

On Tuesday, he said it was up to US officials to repair relations with him and indicated that he was prepared to hold direct talks with Beijing over a sensitive territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

This, at least, did not cause offense.

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“The United States has consistently expressed support for nations to exercise peaceful means to resolve territorial or maritime disputes without the use of force, intimidation or coercion,” Trudeau said.

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TAGS: Elections Featured, Features, Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, US, US State Department
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