US: Duterte's rhetoric causes confusion, consternation

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
US: Duterte's rhetoric causes confusion, consternation
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the Philippines-China Trade and Investment Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. China and the Philippines have agreed to resume a dialogue on their dispute over the South China Sea, a senior Chinese diplomat said Thursday following talks between the countries' leaders.
Wu Hong / Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's "uncomfortable" rhetoric has been causing confusion and consternation, the United States Department of State said.

US Department of State spokesperson John Kirby said that the changing rhetoric coming out from Duterte has not been helpful to the relationship between the US and the Philippines.

In his state visit to China last week, Duterte announced that he is cutting military and economic ties with the Philippines' long-time ally and trade partner.

"Those kinds of comments were certainly giving us pause for concern and some measure of confusion about where things were going," Kirby said in a press briefing on Monday.

A few days later, Duterte clarified that "separation" from the US is not a "severance of ties."

Despite Duterte's recent tirades against the US, Kirby maintained that the American government remains committed to its alliance with the Philippines.

"It’s our intention across the board as a government, not just here at the State Department, to keep that alliance strong and that relationship strong whether it’s through people-to-people ties or military-to-military ties, and we’re going to – and government-to-government communications, and we’re going to do that," Kirby said.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affair Daniel Russel recently visited Manila and met with government officials including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.

The discussions between Russell and Philippine government officials dwelled on the strong ties between two countries and their shared security, economic, political and social ties, Kirby said.

Kirby noted that Russel and Yasay made it clear that Manila and Washington have every intention of meeting all security commitments in the Mutual Defense Treaty.

"I think the tone and tenor of the discussions that they had and the assurances that the Philippine side gave to their commitment to keeping the relationship going was enough to lead the secretary (John Kerry) and the assistant secretary (Russel) to believe that we’re going to be able to work through this," Kirby said.

"And we’ve seen nothing on their side that would tell us that – other than the comments – we’ve seen no practical application of the comments that would tell us that the Philippine Government is moving away from that right now. But we’re going to stay in close touch, obviously, going forward," the US State Department spokesperson added.

Following his meeting with Yasay, Russel told members of the press that the US remains a "steady and trusted" partner of the Philippines.

Russel, however, expressed concern over the recent controversial statements made by the Philippine leader, saying that he is sparking international distress.

"I've pointed out to Secretary Yasay that the succession of controversial statements, comments and a real climate of uncertainty about the Philippines' intentions has created consternation in a number of countries, not only in mine," Russel said.

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