A jubilant China on Friday 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 “independent choices”.
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“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 on Thursday 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 on Thursday 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,” said Filipino.
“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,” Filipino said.