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US seeks clarity on PH ‘separation’

BEIJING (AP) – US State Department spokesman John Kirby said President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks declaring a separation from the United States are “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship” between the two countries.

“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the President meant when he talked about separation from us,” Kirby said Thursday. “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications.”

Kirby said the top US diplomat for Asia, Daniel Russel, is traveling to Manila this weekend and would hold conversations with Filipino government officials.

Despite Duterte’s increasingly sharp criticism of the United States, Kirby said the two countries’ 70-year alliance has not yet been affected.

Duterte has told an audience of Chinese and Filipino officials and businessmen that he is announcing his “separation from the United States,” a longtime ally.

The Philippine leader said Thursday: “Your honors, in this venue I announce my separation from the United States… both in military and economics also.” His remarks were met with applause.

Duterte was not more specific in his latest pronouncement of plans to scale back the Philippines’ engagements with the US.

But the Philippine defense secretary told senators recently that Duterte sometimes makes remarks on Philippine-US military relations without consulting Cabinet officials.

Duterte’s moves to limit engagements with visiting American troops will impede Washington’s plans to expand the footprint of US forces in Southeast Asia.