Philippine President Duterte scales back anti-US comments

As he arrived Friday night from his state visit to the People's Republic of China, President Duterte also said that his latest pronouncement that he is separating from the USA should not be taken as severing ties with America.

While diplomatic ties between the two long-time allies will most likely remain intact, it seemed that the relationship between the Philippines and the European Union reached another low.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced a separation from the United States. "It could be an economic alliance separate from United States foreign policy", he added.

A day after he provoked fresh diplomatic alarm by announcing his "separation" from Washington, Mr Duterte struck a more conciliatory tone as he arrived back in the Philippines after a four-day visit to Beijing.

Duterte's China trip, from Tuesday to Friday, is his first official visit to a foreign country outside ASEAN after assuming the presidential post in June.

Duterte said he also endorsed Russian efforts to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. "It's not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications", he said.

In response, the White House said Duterte has made too many troubling statements recently that lend uncertainty over its ties with the USA and are at odds with their alliance.

"We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors", they said. They have not received any such requests from Duterte, Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters on Thursday.

Duterte wanted to "separate the nation from dependence on the US and the West, and rebalance economic and military relations with Asian neighbours" like China, Japan and South Korea, Abella said in statement. "We share the culture and a better understanding with our region".

According to the joint statement, the Philippines welcomes China's proposal to open a Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Davao.

She made the remarks upon being asked about a Kyodo News report, saying the Japanese Government is increasingly anxious and plans to urge the Philippines to respect the South China Sea arbitration ruling as Chinese and Philippine leaders agreed to set aside relevant disputes in the South China Sea. For Asia watchers, the souring of ties between Washington and Manila complicates the U.S. military posture in the South China Sea, but they also note that Mr Duterte will not likely be able to actually pivot away from the USA without suffering some political fallout at home.

He also said China would restore Philippine agricultural exports to the mainland and that Beijing would provide financing support for Philippine infrastructure projects.

"The two sides agreed that they will do what they agreed five years ago, that is to pursue bilateral dialogue and consultation in seeking a proper settlement of the South China Sea issue", Liu said.

"I believe in sincerity and I believe in the basic fundamentals of human sincerity", Duterte, who said his grandfather is a Chinese, said. He has also personally insulted Barack Obama, calling him a "son-of-a-b****" in the Tagalog language, prompting Obama to cancel a meeting between the two, which finally led Duterte to apologize.

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