MANILA, Philippines – The US' top diplomat for East Asia cautioned the Philippines on Monday, October 24, against choosing between America and China as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte moves away from Washington and closer to Beijing.
Daniel Russel, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, made this statement after meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr in Manila on Monday.
"We don't want countries that have to choose between the US and China," Russel told reporters.
"But we do want countries to be able to choose, to have choices, to have autonomy, to make their own decisions in keeping with their own democratic values and in keeping with international law," he added.
He is in the Philippines for a previously scheduled visit to clarify Philippine-US relations and meet with Filipino youth leaders.
'Addition, not subtraction'
Russel's visit comes after Duterte initially said he is cutting economic and military ties with the US – a statement that the President later clarified to mean it is not a "severance of ties."
During his trip to the Philippines, Russel also said it is "a mistake to think that improved relations between Manila and Beijing somehow come at the expense of the United States." (READ: PH-China ties 'should be at expense' of US – envoy)
"That's not the way that we think about it. This should be addition and not subtraction," Russel said.
At the same time, Russel told Yasay that Duterte's "controversial statements and comments…have created consternation in a number of countries," including the US.
The US official added that the Philippines' allies "are also concerned" about the loss of life in Duterte's war on drugs.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.