Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separation” from the United States on Thursday, declaring he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks.
Duterte made his comments in Beijing, where he is visiting with at least 200 business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally Washington deteriorate.
“In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” 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.”
“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte told his Beijing audience.
Duterte’s remarks will prompt fresh concern in the United States, where the Obama administration has seen Manila as an important ally in its “rebalance” of resources to Asia in the face of a rising China.
In terms of a deal struck with Duterte’s predecessor, United States forces currently have rotational access to bases in the Philippines. It’s unclear at this point whether Duterte will continue to honor the deal.
Duterte’s tone towards Beijing is in stark contrast to the language he has used against the United States, after being infuriated by U.S. criticism of his bloody war on drugs.
He has called U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and told him to “go to hell”, while alluding to severing ties with the old colonial power.
On Wednesday, to the cheers of hundreds of Filipinos in Beijing, Duterte said Philippine foreign policy was veering towards China.
“I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there,” Duterte said. “So time to say goodbye my friend.”
The same day, about 1,000 anti-U.S. protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila calling for the removal of U.S. troops from the southern island of Mindanao.