Philippine President announces separation from US
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that his country is separating from the United States (US) in a speech before a Beijing economic forum yesterday, after handing China a major diplomatic victory, agreeing to resume dialogue on their South China Sea territorial dispute following months of acrimony.
The rapprochement between the two Asian nations could widen a political rift between the United States and the Philippines, whose recently elected leader has made no secret of his antipathy for America and ordered an end to joint manoeuvres between their militaries.
"Your honours, 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.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said 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".
Following talks in Beijing between Duterte and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, a senior Chinese diplomat announced the sides had agreed to restore the full range of contacts, although he said the leaders touched only briefly on the South China Sea.
"Both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relationship," Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters.
The two sides agreed to return to the approach used five years ago of seeking a settlement through bilateral dialogue, Liu said.
That was followed with an announcement by Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez at a bilateral economic forum that his country and China will sign $13.5 billion of deals this week. He did not elaborate.
Separately, the Philippines Presidential Communications Office said Xi committed more than $9 billion in low-interest loans to the country, with about a third of the loan offer coming from private banks. About $15 million in loans will go toward drug-rehabilitation programmes.
In opening remarks to his talks with Xi, Duterte hailed a warming of relations with China.
"China has been a friend of the Philippines, and the roots of our bonds are very deep and not easily severed," he said. "Even as we arrive in Beijing close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship."
Xi, who greeted Duterte with full military honours at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of the ceremonial legislature in the heart of Beijing, said the meeting had "milestone significance". In reference to the South China Sea tensions, Xi said that "although we have weathered storms, the basis of our friendship and our desire for cooperation has not changed".