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Rody asks envoy: Why didn’t US stop China?

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines -  President Duterte has asked United States Ambassador Sung Kim why the US did nothing to stop China from building structures in the South China Sea.

Duterte met with Kim at the Malacañang of the South in Panacan, Davao City on Monday.

During the meeting, Duterte told Kim he was surprised that Washington did not prevent construction activities by the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea.

 The President noted that the US conducted overflights in the disputed sea in recent years.

“Why did the US not send the 7th Fleet and tell the Chinese right in their face to stop it?” Duterte told Kim.

In response, Kim said he was not yet assigned to the Philippines at the time and that his concerns were focused on North Korea.

Duterte then described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “sira ulo” or insane.

Speaking before residents and local officials of Mindoro yesterday, Duterte reiterated that the Philippines has not abandoned its claim to the South China Sea.

He said the Philippines remains a friend of the US, but he also gave credit to Philippines-China relations under President Xi Jinping.

China began building structures in the South China Sea, starting with huts on Panganiban or Mischief Reef, about a year after the Philippines drove out US troops from their bases in the Philippines.

Bilateral relations between the treaty allies turned sour for about a decade after US forces pulled out of Subic Bay in 1992.

US forces returned to the country only in 2002, upon the invitation of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who wanted American help in ending a kidnapping spree by Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Basilan and Sulu.

Arroyo expressed support for the US war on terrorism after the attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

 Duterte was welcomed by local officials led by Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali Jr., Reps. Doy Leachon and Reynaldo Umali during his visit to Barangay Dalig in Socorro town.

The President was with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority secretary general Guiling Mamondiong.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella on Tuesday said Philippine-US relations remain strong.

Abella said the two countries have expressed readiness to discuss matters of mutual interest.

He said Kim lauded the cooperation between the Philippines and the US in terms of intelligence and information sharing, training and equipment support.

Kim also assured the President that the US understands the security concerns of the Philippines.

Kim reiterated that the US government is ready to provide military equipment, assistance and training to the Philippines.

SUNG KIM

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