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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday he would not sever his nation’s alliance with the United States, as he clarified his announcement that he planned to “separate”. “It’s not severance of ties. Severance is to cut diplomatic relations. I can not do that. Why? It’s in the best interests of my country that I don’t do that,” Duterte told reporters in his hometown of Davao after returning from China. The firebrand leader signalled on Thursday during his four-day state visit to Beijing that he intended to end the Philippines’ 70-year alliance with the United States in favour
of China and Russia.
“I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte told a group of Chinese businessmen. “America has lost. 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.
But since becoming president Duterte has done a dramatic foreign policy U-turn that has baffled US leaders. US State Department spokesman John Kirby said yesterday that the United States would seek clarification from the Philippines about the “separation” remark. “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means in all its ramifications,” he said.
Kirby also indicated Asian governments were growing increasingly nervous about Duterte, who has been fiercely criticised in the West for a war on crime in which thousands of people have been killed. “It isn’t just the United States who is baffled by this rhetoric. We have heard from many of our friends and partners in the region who are likewise confused about where this is going,” he said. Duterte on Friday gave a series of comments to clarify those remarks. “Sever is to cut. Separate is just to chart another way of doing,” he said.
“What I’m really saying was separation of foreign policy, which in the past and until I became president, we always followed what the United States would give the cue.” Nevertheless, Duterte launched another tirade against the United States for criticising his war on crime, which has left more than 3,600 people dead and raised fears about extrajudicial killings.