US backs Philippines-China talks

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
US backs Philippines-China talks
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affair Daniel Russel issues his statement to reporters after meeting with Philippine officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs in suburban Pasay, south of Manila, Philippines on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. Russel has said that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial remarks and a "real climate of uncertainty" about his government's intentions have sparked consternation in the U.S. and other governments and in the business world.
AP / Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — The United States (US) supports direct dialogue negotiations between the Philippines and China in settling the South China Sea dispute, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said on Monday.

Russel met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. to discuss various issues including President Rodrigo Duterte's recent state visit to China.

"The Foreign secretary briefed me on the important visit by President Duterte to China that recently concluded and I reiterated that the United States welcomes a relaxation in relations between Beijing and Manila," Russel said in a televised press conference.

Russel added that the US supports dialogue between the two countries as long as it is consistent with international law and within terms acceptable to the Philippines.

He stressed, however, that improved relations between Manila and Beijing should not come at the expense of Washington.

"That's not the way that we think about it. This should be addition and not subtraction. We don't want countries to have to choose between the US and China," Russel said.

The US wants countries to be able to choose and to make their own decisions in keeping international law, the American executive said.

'Succession of controversial statements'

Russel also expressed concern over the "succession of controversial statements" from the president about his intentions which has "created a consternation in a number of countries."

"This is not a positive trend and as I candidly shared with the Foreign Secretary [Yasay], your friends are also concerned about the loss of life in connection with the counter-narcotics campaign," Russel said.

The American executive said that the US government also supports the Duterte administration's campaign against the illegal drug trade.

Despite supporting the Philippines' war against drugs, the US warned that the government should respect the rights of citizens given the spate of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.

"I also reiterated that importance that we place and that others place for due process and respect for rights of citizens as an important part of protecting our communities as well. And the growing uncertainty about this and other issues is bad for business as well," Russel said.

"So let me end where I began by strongly reaffirming America's enduring bond of friendship, respect, and shared value with the people of the Philippines," the American executive said.

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