Talk vs. Walk

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte disparaged the relationship between the US and the Philippines again Tuesday and warned the military alliance might not continue. Less than a week after he declared a “separation” from the US during a visit to China, Duterte said the US could “forget” an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines if he stayed in power longer, Reuters reported. He did not elaborate, but said he looks “forward to the time when I no longer see any military troops or soldier[s] in my country except the Filipino soldiers.” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday the US government hasn’t seen any “policy traction” behind Duterte’s comments about the US-Philippine alliance, many of which have been walked back. “We’re going to continue to work at this relationship, we’re going to continue to meet our obligations under the defense treaty,” he said.

During a Monday briefing, Kirby called Duterte’s recent comments “uncomfortable rhetoric” and said they were causing confusion. He also noted US Secretary of State John Kerry called his Philippine counterpart Sunday, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel met with other leaders while in Manila earlier this week. “I think they both came away from the discussions realizing that the relationship remains stable and solid, and that we obviously are both going to have to work to sustain it and to keep it going,” Kirby said. “But they both came away from their discussions feeling that we were going to be able to work through this period and to continue to be able to meet our mutual requirements to one another.”