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President Duterte’s remarks on cutting ties baffle US officials

/ 04:13 AM October 21, 2016
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses members of the Philippine community in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. Duterte's effusive message of friendship on his visit to Beijing this week has handed China a public relations bonanza just three months after Beijing suffered a humiliating defeat by an international tribunal. AP FILE PHOTO

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Officials in Washington, DC, seemed puzzled by the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he had decided to cut economic and military ties with the United States, according to a report published early Friday morning by the Associated Press.

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US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington, DC, that Duterte’s remarks were “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship we have with the Filipino people as well as the government there on many different levels, not just from a security perspective.”

“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from us,” Kirby said. “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications.”

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Kirby said the top US diplomat for Asia, Daniel Russel, is traveling to Manila this weekend and would hold conversations with Filipino government officials.

“It isn’t just the United States that is baffled by this rhetoric,” Kirby said. “We have heard from many of our friends and partners in the region who are likewise confused about where this is going.”

Despite Duterte’s increasingly sharp criticism of the United States, Kirby said the two countries’ 70-year alliance hasn’t yet been affected.

“We remain rock solid in our commitment in the mutual defense treaty we have with the Philippines. That hasn’t changed,” he said, adding that he hoped the alliance would “grow and develop and deepen.”

On Thursday, Duterte announced that the Philippines would cut ties with the US in a speech before a Beijing economic forum, after handing China a major diplomatic victory, agreeing to resume dialogue on their South China Sea territorial dispute following months of acrimony.

“Your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States … both in military and economics also,” Duterte said. His remarks were met with applause, but Duterte was not more specific.

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TAGS: China-Philippines relations, John Kirby, Rodrigo Duterte, US State Department, US-Philippine relations
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