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Duterte, Back From China Trip, Says He's Not Severing U.S. Ties

24 October 2016

Given the Philippines' crucial importance to USA foreign policy goals in Asia - including its military bases, a regional maritime security initiative and efforts to help smaller Asian countries resist pressure from the regional behemoth of China - Duterte's clarification on Friday is not likely to provide much comfort.

"It is not severance of ties".

"It's not severance of ties, when you say severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations".

"Napag-usapan namin pero (We talked about it but), no, no - I'll leave it to them to - that's one of the things I said that in the private talks which I can not [disclose]", said Duterte. "We're committed to this relationship; we're committed to an alliance between the two countries", he said.

Well, that's a clear backtracking from his previous statements.

"America has lost now", he told Chinese and Philippine business leaders on Thursday.

United States officials said they have not received any formal Philippine notice of Duterte's pronouncements, adding the alliance benefits both countries and should continue to blossom. When the president called for the withdrawal of U.S. Special Forces from the southern island of Mindanao, he did not bother to tell the U.S. Embassy.

Yet Duterte has a reputation for making crude, hyperbolic and self-contradicting statements, leaving politicians - both in the USA and the Philippines - unsure of what he actually hopes to achieve.

He added that severing diplomatic ties with the U.S. is not feasible.

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Mr Duterte's tone towards China is in stark contrast to the language he has used against the United States, after being infuriated by American criticism of his bloody war on drugs. "Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also", he said.

After the comments, members of his cabinet attempted to underline that Duterte was suggesting less dependence. American Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, to whom Duterte has referred as an "annoying homosexual son of a bitch", told reporters Friday that he expects his government will demand some explanation.

"Because all your lawyers are all stupid and idiots", Duterte said.

The loss of the Philippines bases would be "a significant blow", said Manning, a former official at the State Department and National Intelligence Council.

The hotly contested waterway is one of the "shared interests" that, Duterte said, could be a topic of discussion with the Japanese official, even he continues to cozy up to China, which has made aggressive moves on the resource-rich sea. But Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist and has close links with communists still waging a rebellion in the Philippines, has revealed a deep dislike of the United States.

For example, Duterte left Beijing with $13.5 billion worth of new trade deals with China.

China has urged Japan to stop inciting regional conflict over the South China Sea dispute and play a constructive role in regional peace and stability. The controversial leader made his comments in Beijing, where he was paving the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance, as relations with long-time ally Washington deteriorate.

"We remain rock solid in our commitment in the mutual defense treaty we have with the Philippines".