Philippines President declares “separation” from U.S.

Philippines‘ President Rodrigo Duterte declared his “separation” from longstanding ally the United States in Beijing on Thursday, October 20, as he rebalances his country’s diplomacy towards China, AFP reports.

“I announce my separation from the United States,” he said to applause at a meeting in the Chinese capital.

His comments came after he met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square, with the two men pledging to enhance trust and friendship, while playing down a maritime dispute.

The two leaders — Duterte donning a suit and tie for the occasion — strode side-by-side down the red carpet inspecting an honour guard, with children cheering.

Xi called the two countries “neighbours across the sea” with “no reason for hostility or confrontation”, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Duterte is in China for a four-day trip seen as confirming his tilt away from Washington and towards Beijing’s sphere of influence — and its deep pockets.

Under Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino the two countries were at loggerheads over the South China Sea — where Beijing has built a series of artificial islands — but since taking office in June the new head of state has changed course.

The two leaders held “extensive” and “amicable” official talks and oversaw the signing of 13 bilateral cooperation documents on business, infrastructure, and agriculture, among other fields, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, without giving details.

In a statement, the foreign ministry cited Xi as telling Duterte their emotional foundation of friendly good neighbourliness was unchanged, and difficult topics of discussion “could be shelved temporarily”.

Duterte called the meeting “historic”, it added.

Duterte’s visit to Beijing capped a series of recent declarations blasting the U.S. and President Barack Obama.

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