Philip­pine Pres­i­dent an­nounces sep­a­ra­tion from US

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

BEI­JING (AP): PHILIP­PINE PRES­I­DENT Ro­drigo Duterte an­nounced that his coun­try is sep­a­rat­ing from the United States (US) in a speech be­fore a Bei­jing eco­nomic fo­rum yes­ter­day, af­ter hand­ing China a ma­jor diplo­matic victory, agree­ing to re­sume di­a­logue on their South China Sea ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute fol­low­ing months of ac­ri­mony.

The rap­proche­ment be­tween the two Asian na­tions could widen a po­lit­i­cal rift be­tween the United States and the Philip­pines, whose re­cently elected leader has made no se­cret of his an­tipa­thy for Amer­ica and or­dered an end to joint ma­noeu­vres be­tween their mil­i­taries.

“Your hon­ours, in this venue, I an­nounce my sep­a­ra­tion from the United States ... both in mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ics also,” Duterte said. His re­marks were met with ap­plause, but Duterte was not more spe­cific.

In Wash­ing­ton, US State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby said Duterte’s re­marks were “in­ex­pli­ca­bly at odds with the very close re­la­tion­ship we have with the Filipino peo­ple as well as the govern­ment there on many dif­fer­ent lev­els, not just from a se­cu­rity per­spec­tive”.

Fol­low­ing talks in Bei­jing be­tween Duterte and his Chi­nese coun­ter­part Xi Jin­ping, a se­nior Chi­nese diplo­mat an­nounced the sides had agreed to re­store the full range of con­tacts, al­though he said the lead­ers touched only briefly on the South China Sea.

RE­CENT AGREE­MENT

“Both sides agreed that the South China Sea is­sue is not the sum to­tal of the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship,” Vice-For­eign Min­is­ter Liu Zhen­min told re­porters.

The two sides agreed to re­turn to the ap­proach used five years ago of seek­ing a set­tle­ment through bi­lat­eral di­a­logue, Liu said.

That was fol­lowed with an an­nounce­ment by Philip­pine Trade Sec­re­tary Ra­mon Lopez at a bi­lat­eral eco­nomic fo­rum that his coun­try and China will sign $13.5 bil­lion of deals this week. He did not elab­o­rate.

Sep­a­rately, the Philip­pines Pres­i­den­tial Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Of­fice said Xi com­mit­ted more than $9 bil­lion in low-in­ter­est loans to the coun­try, with about a third of the loan of­fer com­ing from pri­vate banks. About $15 mil­lion in loans will go to­ward dru­gre­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grammes.

In open­ing re­marks to his talks with Xi, Duterte hailed a warm­ing of re­la­tions with China.

“China has been a friend of the Philip­pines, and the roots of our bonds are very deep and not eas­ily sev­ered,” he said. “Even as we ar­rive in Bei­jing close to win­ter, this is a spring­time of our re­la­tion­ship.”

Xi, who greeted Duterte with full mil­i­tary hon­ours at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple, the seat of the cer­e­mo­nial leg­is­la­ture in the heart of Bei­jing, said the meet­ing had “mile­stone sig­nif­i­cance”. In ref­er­ence to the South China Sea ten­sions, Xi said that “al­though we have weath­ered storms, the ba­sis of our friend­ship and our de­sire for co­op­er­a­tion has not changed”.

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