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US: Duterte talk creates ‘unnecessary uncertainty’

/ 03:44 AM October 22, 2016
US Embassy in Manila (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

US Embassy in Manila (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

Without official word from the Philippine government, President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of “separation” from the United States is “creating unnecessary uncertainty,” an official of the US Embassy in Manila said on Friday.

Mr. Duterte’s declaration, made during a state visit to China on Thursday, has caused confusion in Washington, where officials have said the Philippine government has not made any of his tirades official policy.

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US Assistant State Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel is traveling to Manila this weekend to talk to Philippine officials to lessen, at least, the ambiguity.

No official word

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“We’ve seen a lot of this sort of troubling rhetoric recently which is inexplicably at odds with the warm relationship that exists between the Filipino and American people and the record of important cooperation between our two governments,” US Embassy press attaché Molly Koscina said.

“We have yet to hear from the Philippine government what Duterte’s remarks on ‘separation’ might mean but it is creating unnecessary uncertainty,” she said.

Koscina said Russel’s Asian trip from Oct. 21 to 28 could at least offer some clarity.

“As part of a previously scheduled trip to the region, [Assistant Secretary] Russel will be sitting down with his Philippine counterparts to discuss the broad scope of our relationship,” she said.

Visit to Manila

Russel will visit the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia on his trip. He will be in Manila from Oct. 22 to 25, and he will meet with government officials as well as participants in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.

“We will honor our alliance commitments and treaty obligations.  And of course, we expect the Philippines to do the same,” Koscina said.

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“We have full confidence in the strong ties that connect our peoples and countries, including record levels of trade, investment and remittances,” she said.

“As we have stated, we continue to focus on our broad relationship with the Philippines, and will work together in the many areas of mutual interest to improve the livelihoods of the Philippine people and uphold our shared democratic values,” she said.

Baffling rhetoric

In Washington, US state department spokesperson John Kirby on Thursday said Mr. 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 told reporters. “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications.”

Kirby said Russel would hold conversations with Filipino government officials for clarification.

“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 Mr. Duterte’s near-daily, profanity-laden tirades against the United States, Kirby said the two countries’ 70-year alliance had not 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.”

Alliance commitments

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter also said Washington intended to keep its alliance commitments to the Philippines.

Asked about Mr. Duterte’s declaration that he had realigned with China, Carter said: “We have important alliance commitments [that] we intend to keep in the Philippines.”

“Obviously any relationship is one of mutuality and we will continue to discuss that with our Philippine counterparts,” he told reporters before landing in Turkey.

“That’s not new today, but that’s our alliance relationship with the Philippines,” he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM AP

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TAGS: China, President Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte, United States, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, US embassy, Washington
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