Philippine President Announces “Separation” from US

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking in Beijing Thursday, declared a break in the historic relationship between the US and the Philippines in favor of a new alignment with China. “In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte said at the Great Hall of the People, according to Reuters. “Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost.” Duterte’s trip to China also involved negotiations on trade deals worth $13.5 billion and talks on disputed territories in the South China Sea. Duterte’s speech comes after weeks of insults aimed at President Barack Obama and promises to end joint military exercises and patrols between US and Philippine forces. “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,” Duterte said during his speech Thursday. “I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there…So time to say goodbye my friend.”

White House spokesman Eric Shultz said Thursday the US government hasn’t received an official request from Philippine officials to alter cooperation between the two countries. “I will tell you that we continue to be the Philippines’ strongest economic partner,” he said. Shultz said the government believes it’s in the US’ interest for the Philippines to have a strong relationship with China as long as it’s consistent with international norms. “We don’t consider this a zero-sum game,” he said. Last week, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said he was “not aware of any material change in the security cooperation between the US and the Philippines” despite Duterte’s recent comments. “There’s a difference between talking about these things and actually stopping,” Russel said. “I’m not saying that it won’t happen, it couldn’t happen, merely that there’s a distinction to be made between general, high-level pronouncements and considered policy decisions and actions.”