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US: Duterte remarks sparking distress

America’s top diplomat for Asia said yesterday that President Duterte’s controversial remarks and a “real climate of uncertainty” about his government’s intentions have sparked distress in the US and other countries.

Daniel Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said he also relayed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. international concern over continuing killings under Duterte’s crackdown against illegal drugs.

Russel’s visit to the Philippines, part of a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia, comes amid increasing uncertainty about Washington’s treaty alliance with Manila. The brash Duterte, who took office on June 30, has displayed antagonism toward America, declaring his desire to scale back military engagements with the US and telling President Barack Obama “to go to hell.”

Duterte’s administration, however, has not formalized his public declarations to remove US counterterrorism forces from the volatile southern Philippines and stop large-scale joint exercises involving American forces, creating confusion among even his Cabinet officials.

In a major walk-around, Duterte sparked diplomatic alarm when he announced during a state visit to Beijing last week his “separation” with the United States. Upon returning home the day after his stunning remarks, Duterte said he did not mean he was severing diplomatic ties with Washington but only wanted to end a foreign policy that’s overly oriented toward the US.

“I’ve pointed out to Secretary Yasay that the succession of controversial statements, comments, and a real climate of uncertainty about the Philippines’ intentions has created consternation in a number of countries, not only in mine,” Russel told reporters after a meeting with Yasay that went overtime. (AP)

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