US State chief John Kerry to visit Duterte in Manila

Camille Diola - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — US State Secretary John Kerry will meet with newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte in his visit to Manila this month, the Department of State announced on Tuesday (Wednesday morning in Manila).

Kerry, who last visited the Philippine capital in 2013, is set to "discuss the full range of our cooperation with the new administration," said Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the State department.

During Kerry's visit from July 26 to 27, he is also expected to meet with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay. The call comes a few weeks after the Hague-based arbitral tribunal handed down a ruling favorable to the Philippines on its claims over parts of the South China Sea against China.

Prior to Kerry's arrival in Manila, he will travel to Vienna, Austria and Paris, France. He will then participate at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Vientiane, Laos.

"At these ASEAN meetings, the secretary will discuss the region’s security architecture and shared transnational challenges including maritime security, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the South China Sea," Toner said in a statement.

John Schaus, a fellow at Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Kerry should be the first official from President Barack Obama's cabinet to meet with Duterte when he assumes office and directly hear his objectives.

"The first step in securing the US-Philippine relationship in the next administration is to meet with Duterte, listen to his views, and start that conversation. This is something only Secretary Kerry can do, and he should," Schaus said in June.

Schaus added that Kerry should hear what Duterte sees for cooperating with the US and reassure him of the US commitment to the mutual defense treaty between the two countries.

"The secretary can reinforce the message the United States has delivered to the Philippines throughout the Obama administration, emphasizing the importance of partnership and cooperation to enhance the security of both the Philippines and the region as a whole," Schaus said.

Unlike previous Philippine leaders friendly to the US, Duterte has expressed opposition to a yearly bilateral military exercise and said Washington is only after its interests in the Philippines.

The US government drew the ire of Duterte after a British-American national facing charges for exploding dynamite inside his hotel room in 2002 was brought out of the country allegedly by US authorities.

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