Philip­pine leader ‘sep­a­rates’ from US

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By REUTERS and CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte an­nounced his “sep­a­ra­tion” from the United States on Thurs­day, declar­ing he had re­aligned with China as the two na­tions agreed to re­solve their South China Sea dis­pute through talks.

Duterte made his com­ments in Bei­jing, where he was visit­ing with at least 200 busi­ness­peo­ple to pave the way for what he calls a new com­mer­cial al­liance as re­la­tions with long­time ally Wash­ing­ton de­te­ri­o­rate.

“In this venue, your hon­ours, in this venue, I an­nounce my sep­a­ra­tion from the United States,” Duterte told Chi­nese and Philip­pine busi­ness­peo­ple to ap­plause at a fo­rum in the Great Hall of the Peo­ple at­tended by Chi­nese Vice-Pre­mier Zhang Gaoli.

“Both in mil­i­tary, not maybe so­cial, but eco­nom­ics also. Amer­ica has lost,” Duterte said.

Duterte’s ef­forts to en­gage China, months after a tri­bunal in the Hague ruled that Bei­jing did not have his­toric rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion in Manila, marks a re­ver­sal in for­eign pol­icy since the 71-year-old for­mer mayor took of­fice on June 30.

His trade sec­re­tary, Ra­mon Lopez, said $13.5 bil­lion in deals would be signed dur­ing the China trip.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion agreed to a deal with Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor grant­ing US forces ro­ta­tional ac­cess to bases in the Philip­pines and fur­ther doubts will be raised about the fu­ture of this ar­range­ment.

“The US-Philip­pine al­liance is built on a 70-year history, rich peo­ple to peo­ple ties and a long list of shared se­cu­rity con­cerns,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told re­porters. “We have not re­ceived any of­fi­cial re­quests from Filipino of­fi­cials to al­ter any of our many is­sues where we bi­lat­er­ally co­op­er­ate.”

Schultz said the White House does not view Manila’s re­la­tion­ship with China as a

Your hon­ours, in this venue, I an­nounce my sep­a­ra­tion from the United States.” Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte speak­ing in Bei­jing

“zero sum game.”

“We believe that it’s in our na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests when our part­ners and al­lies in the re­gion have strong re­la­tion­ships with China,” he said.

A few hours after Duterte’s speech, his top eco­nomic pol­i­cy­mak­ers re­leased a state­ment say­ing that, while Asian eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion was “long over­due”, that did not mean the Philip­pines was turn­ing its back on the West.

“We will main­tain re­la­tions with the West but we de­sire stronger in­te­gra­tion with our neigh­bours,” said Finance Sec­re­tary Car­los Dominguez and Eco­nomic Plan­ning Sec­re­tary Ernesto Per­nia in a joint state­ment. “We share the cul­ture and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing with our re­gion.”

In re­sponse to Duterte’s com­ments, US State De­part­ment spokesman John Kirby said: “We still hold that it is in­ex­pli­ca­bly at odds with the very close re­la­tion­ship that we have with the Filipino peo­ple, as well as the govern­ment there, on many dif­fer­ent lev­els, not just from a se­cu­rity perspective.

“We are go­ing to be seek­ing an ex­pla­na­tion of ex­actly what the pres­i­dent meant when he talked about sep­a­ra­tion from the US. It’s not clear to us ex­actly what that means in all its ram­i­fi­ca­tions,” Kirby told a daily brief­ing.

Kirby added that the US re­mains “rock solid in our com­mit­ment in the mu­tual de­fense treaty that we have with the Philip­pines. That hasn’t changed,” he said.

“This is a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment, one that has been lost, at least for the mo­ment, in the noise of the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” said Jon Tay­lor, pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the Univer­sity of St Thomas in Hous­ton.

“Obama has touted a pivot to Asia, pri­mar­ily with the aim, frankly, of coun­ter­bal­anc­ing China. In­stead, Duterte has pulled off his own pivot – in this case to China. This has some real im­pli­ca­tions for Amer­i­can in­flu­ence in Asia and the Pa­cific,” he said.

Tay­lor said in many re­spects this was not a com­plete sur­prise given the per­sonal con­tention be­tween Obama and Duterte.

“Al­though the 15 per­cent tax brings in­con­ve­nience to over­seas buy­ers, I plan to in­vest in Canada to build res­i­den­tial prop­erty in the next two to three years, es­pe­cially for the Chi­nese buy­ers,” Frank Wu, one of China’s top real es­tate moguls, said on Monday in Mon­treal.

The tour is tak­ing place only a few weeks after an ex­change of high-level of­fi­cial vis­its — Trudeau’s re­cent trip to China, fol­lowed by Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang’s visit to Canada.

The trav­el­ling mem­bers met with Trudeau north of Ot­tawa, near Que­bec’s Meech Lake on Tues­day.

Trudeau has shown more will­ing­ness to do busi­ness with the world’s sec­ond-big­gest econ­omy than the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment — he’s even com­mit­ted to launch­ing ex­ploratory free­trade talks.

With an ob­jec­tive of bol­ster­ing pub­lic diplo­macy for the Chi­nese pri­vate sec­tor, the club mem­bers, made up of 50 top Chi­nese firms with a com­bined an­nual gross in­come of $585 bil­lion, planned many high-level meet­ings with Canada’s busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal elite.

Canada is the ninth des­ti­na­tion coun­try for the club’s an­nual vis­its, fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful trips to the United States, UK, France, Bel­gium, Aus­tralia, Sin­ga­pore, Ger­many and Italy.

XIE HUANCHI / XIN­HUA

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping holds a wel­com­ing cer­e­mony to greet Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte in Bei­jing on Thurs­day.

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