In a stunning about-turn the president of the Philippines has announced his country will abandon its longstanding ally the United States and embrace China instead.
During his time in office Barack Obama has made much of swinging US foreign policy towards Asia but during a visit to Beijing Rodrigo Duterte denounced America without reservation.
“America has lost me. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte told Chinese and Philippine business people, 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.”
His visit to China along with 200 businesspeople is expected to be worth 13.5 billion dollars in trade deals.
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.
Philippines’ Duterte not planning to raise South China Sea disputes in China visit https://t.co/focWavJK6g 🔓— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) October 20, 2016
The Obama administration has seen Manila as an important ally in its “rebalance” of resources to Asia in the face of a rising China.
The administration agreed a deal with Duterte’s predecessor granting U.S. forces
rotational access to bases in the Philippines and further doubts will be raised about the future of this arrangement.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department said it was “baffled” by Duterte’s comments and would seek an explanation when Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, visits Manila this weekend.
Both the State Department and the White House portrayed Duterte’s comments as being at odds with the close, long-standing alliance between the two countries. They said Washington would welcome closer ties between Beijing and Manila, however.
“The U.S.-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.
statedeptspox</a> Kirby on recent comments from President Duterte of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Philippines?src=hash">#Philippines</a> <a href="https://t.co/p73ZhcnLZQ">https://t.co/p73ZhcnLZQ</a></p>— Department of State (StateDept) October 20, 2016
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.