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Duterte’s ‘separation’ from US causes Philippine foreign policy into confusion

By PTI Updated: Oct 21, 2016 8:53 pm

MANILA, OCTOBER 21: President Rodrigo Duterte’s shock “separation” from the United States has thrown Philippine foreign policy into confusion, with the Americans saying they are baffled and some of his top aides contradicting him.
The firebrand leader rarely lets a day pass without taunting or abusing the United States but his latest comments, made during a state visit to Beijing, were the strongest signal he wants to torpedo a 70-year alliance in favour of China and Russia.
“I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte said yesterday as he paused to soak up the applause from hundreds of Chinese businessmen in the audience.
“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”
Until Duterte took office on June 30, the Philippines had been one of the United States’ most important and loyal allies in Asia, and a key to President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to the region.
The Philippines had also been a bastion of democracy — albeit a chaotic and corrupt one — in Southeast Asia since shedding the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
But Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist and has close links with communists still waging a rebellion in the Philippines, has revealed a deep dislike of the United States.
He has repeatedly branded Obama a “son of a whore”, and called on his countrymen to remember crimes committed by Americans when the Philippines was a colony of the United States from 1898 to 1946.
Ignoring the thousands of American lives that were lost to liberate the Philippines from Japan during World War II, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, Duterte has also told Filipinos that the United States had done nothing for them.
He has said there will be no more joint US-Philippine patrols in the South China Sea, nor will there be any further joint military exercises with the United States that see thousands of troops pass through the Philippines each year.
Duterte’s tirades are causing confusion in Washington, where officials have repeatedly said the Philippine government has not made any of his words official policy.
“I just want to say that obviously we’re aware of this rhetoric,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

China defends Duterte’s decision to ‘separate’ from US
Beijing: A jubilant China today defended Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to “separate” from the US, saying as an elected leader of a sovereign state he has every right to make “independence choices”.
“Duterte is elected by the people. We believe he will make choices independently which benefits the Philippines and its people in mind,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here reacting to confusion and concern caused by Duterte’s remarks in the US.
“The sovereign state Philippines can make decisions policies based on its own interests and we respect that,” she said defending Duterte’s U-turn virtually ending the Philippines alliance with the US and turn to Beijing.
In a shocking announcement after his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Duterte told a meeting of Chinese and Philipino businesspeople yesterday that “I announce my separation from the United States. Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost.”
In the meeting attended among others by Chinese Vice Premier at Zhang Gaoli, Duterte said “I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the America was “baffled by this rhetoric” and that Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel would be in Manila this weekend and would try to get some answers.
“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from the US,” BBC quoted Kirby as saying.
China has virtually embraced Duterte, who decided to visit Beijing after his bitter spat with US over his controversial violent war on drug smugglers.
Filipino officials said the two countries yesterday signed 13 agreements and China had promised to invest USD 13.5 billion in various Philippines.
China is facing severe pressure since July this year after an international tribunal struck down its claims on the South China Sea (SCS).
Asked today whether China has imposed in any condition on Duterte that the Philippines has to reject The Hague arbitration verdict on the SCS delivered in response to Manila’s petition, Hua said “China’s stand on the so called arbitration case has been made very clear”.
“I can tell you that in the past 41 years China and the Philippines had consensus on the SCS issue. We should stick to this political wisdom and pass it on as a successful practice and regard it foundation for the future bilateral relations.”
“The maritime disputes (between China and the Philippines) appear to have been shelved, replaced by pragmatic cooperation projects worth hundreds of million dollars, as China will be among the most important investors in infrastructure in the Philippines.”
“The South China Sea is embracing a brand-new landscape.
It’s a worrisome gesture. Maritime disputes between SCS claimants have been obsessively exploited and manipulated by irrelevant forces driven by huge interests.
“Those forces want to maintain the status quo and further stir confrontation between China and the Philippines. The sudden shift puts them on the back foot. Will they give up their previous pursuits to help consolidate the Sino-Philippine rapport?” it said.
“Many worry that the US and Japan will not. Without being pressured by so-called threats from China, the Philippines has publicly announced its decision to suspend joint patrols and drills with US,” it said.
Duterte’s stand on the SCS and the US was expected to unravel further as he is set to visit Japan in the next few days.
“Public opinion conjectures that the US may pressure the Duterte government and that Japan will try to turn Duterte around during his upcoming Tokyo visit,” the editorial said. (IANS)

By PTI Updated: Oct 21, 2016 8:53:29 pm