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Philippines Backtracks on Rodrigo Duterte's 'Separation' From US Comments

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The United States says it is "baffled" by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement of a "separation" from his country's longstanding ally, and will seek an explanation when a senior U.S. official visits Manila this weekend.

Duterte, while on his state visit to China, had announced his military and economic "separation" from the United States, though he did not divulge the details.

"It is not severance of ties".

Earlier Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped his Filipino counterpart's "milestone" visit could help improve ties between the two nations.

It stressed that Philippine-American relations are "built on a 70-year history, rich people-to-people ties, including a vibrant Filipino-American diaspora, and a long list of shared security concerns".

After speaking diparagingly of Obama, Duterte now says he is ordering an end to joint maneuvers between the United States and Philippine militaries. "I will just be insulted there".

Despite the clarification, the tough-talking president kept up on his tirades against the US, saying in a late-night speech in his southern hometown of Davao city that he would never travel to America "in this lifetime". Duterte remains wildly popular at home, but a Reuters poll on Tuesday showed most Filipinos continue to trust the US more than China, which banned Philippine fisherman from its South China Sea territory.

And the Chinese Government seems to like the new arrangement, since they really rolled out the RED carpet for Duterte.

"I announce my separation from the United States".

Asked about Mr Duterte's remarks, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "The Australian government believes the United States has played a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in our region and beyond".

"In terms of economic (ties), we are not stopping trade, investment with America", Trade Minister Ramon Lopez told CNN Philippines. "It's breaking being too dependent on one side".

"It's the only way", Duterte said.

Philippine tough guy president Rodrigo Duterte announced his country's separation from the United States Thursday in favor of a closer relationship with China and possibly Russian Federation.

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For nearly 70 years, the Philippines and the US have been close allies in everything from trade to defense agreements, which allowed Washington to rotate aircraft, ships, and personnel through five Philippines bases.

Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Acquino, took Beijing to an worldwide tribunal in the Hague over China's extensive claims in the South China Sea.

But Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist and has close links with communists still waging a rebellion in the Philippines, has revealed a deep dislike of the United States.

Xi told Duterte that China and the Philippines were brothers and they could "appropriately handle disputes", though he did not mention the South China Sea in remarks made in front of reporters.

That same day, 1,000 anti-U.S. protestors rallied outside the USA embassy in Manila to demand the withdraw of American military forces.

Hundreds of left-wing demonstrators burned a replica of the USA flag at a rally in Manila on Friday as they called for an end to US military agreements.

The White House said current U.S. direct investment to the Philippines was over $US4.7 billion.

Mr Duterte's latest outburst, less than three weeks before the US presidential election, casts further doubt on the seven-decade US-Philippine alliance and threatens to further undermine Mr Obama's faltering "pivot" to Asia as a counterbalance to China's growing assertiveness.

Duterte on Saturday gave a series of comments to clarify those remarks.

"I don't know what the process is, I don't know what the goal and objective is, all I know is what I hear and not what I see, because what I see is that we're still working very much, with our Philippine colleagues and in fact have very good relationship", he added.

The US had long considered its relations with the Philippines as one of its most stable in Southeast Asia.

That's despite the Philippines winning a landmark worldwide court case, in effect invalidating China's claim to the bulk of the South China Sea.

Arriving home, Duterte said he had discussed Scarborough Shoal with the Chinese, but did not elaborate.

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