MANILA, Philippines - Just weeks after telling U.S. President Obama to "go to hell," Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte now says he wants to separate from the United ...
• Philippines president continues anti-U.S. rhetoric during Beijing visit
• U.S. is one of Philippines' closest allies, providing military support
• U.S. to seek explanation from Duterte on his remarks
MANILA, Philippines - Just weeks after telling U.S. President Obama to "go to hell," Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte now says he wants to separate from the United States.
During a state visit to Beijing, Duterte declared, “I announce my separation from the U.S.…both in military and economics also," to a packed room of business leaders after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping. "America has lost now," Duterte added. His remarks were met with applause, but Duterte did not get more specific.
Duterte's announcement is the latest indication that the Philippines' president, who took over office in June this year, is veering towards China and Russia.
During his speech, he also stated he might go to Russian President Vladimir Putin and tell him “there’s three of us against the world.”
Interestingly, handing China a significant diplomatic victory, Duterte agreed to resume dialogue on the South China Sea territorial dispute following months of hostility and hailed the warming of relations with China. The two countries also said they would sign $13.5 billion of deals this week.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is left puzzled on how to deal with the increasingly hostile rhetoric from Duterte in recent months.
The country has strong ties with the Philippine defense establishment, and the latter's citizens say they trust America more than China by a wide margin.
Since World War II, the U.S. has been the Philippines' closest ally. But the 71-year-old outspoken leader appears to be in the mood for a dramatic shift in the relationship, as evident this week in his remarks to the Philippines-China Trade and Investment Forum in Beijing.
The Philippines' leader's comments not just risks disrupting U.S.-Philippines ties, but will also influence U.S. ties with the entire Asia-Pacific region as it seeks to expand its footprint in Southeast Asia.
Reacting to the latest comments, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said his country would seek an explanation, which the U.S. hadn't known were coming.
He said they were "yet another string in some pretty strong rhetoric that we think we believe is at odds with the kind of relationship that we have had and continue to have the Filipino people."
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby also said Duterte’s remarks declaring a separation from the United States are “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship” between the two countries.
“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from us,” Kirby said on Thursday. “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications.”
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."
In recent weeks, Duterte has shown an increasing hostile attitude to the United States, even going so far as to call the U.S. president a "son of a b***h.”
The Philippines president's most recent remarks come less than a week after the U.S. military delivered 30 pallets of military equipment to the Philippines, with communications devices and other gear going to the country's Marine Special Operations Group, its Coast Guard and a special force within its national police agency.