World Responds to Xi-Duterte Meeting

World Responds to Xi-Duterte Meeting
Photo Credit: REUTERS/達志影像

What you need to know

Experts and academics weigh in as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ends his China visit with a series of surprising announcements, including a 'separation from the U.S.'

The U.S. will seek "explanations" from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte about his announcement on Thursday that he would be “separating from the United States,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said at the department’s daily press briefing yesterday.

Kirby said that the visit to the Philippines this weekend by Daniel Russell, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department, is an opportunity for the U.S. to “try to get a better explanation of what was meant by ‘separation’ and where that’s going.”

The spokesman said the U.S. is still committed to the 70-year relationship with the Philippines and its defense treaty with the country. The U.S. has five naval bases in the Philippines – part of the Obama administration’s maritime security initiative in Southeast Asia.

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former official with the State Department, told CNN that losing the bases in the Philippines would be a “significant blow” to the initiative.

However, another senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Jamie Metzl, says that abrogating the defense treaty would require support from the “most pro-U.S. and anti-Chinese populations in Asia.”

Following Duterte’s announcement, Philippines Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia issued a joint statement in which they said the Philippines would “maintain relations with the West,” but it also sought stronger integration with its neighbors.

Philippine Senator Richard Gordon has called out Duterte on his announcement, the Inquirer reported. “You don’t have to leave your old friends that have been reliable, just because you want to get a few things. That’s short-sightedness,” Gordon said.

Duterte’s visit to China has also resulted in a 47-point joint statement from China and the Philippines, in which China expressed its support for Duterte’s controversial war on drugs. The statement also reiterates that bilateral discussions will be held to address the South China Sea dispute.

Joseph Franco, a Philippine expert at Singapore’s Nanyang University, told Time magazine that he could “definitely see the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) clapping with glee with Duterte’s ‘bilateral’ talk.”

“It is classic discursive infiltration - you get the enemy camp to use your phrases and buzzwords,” Franco said.

However, Richard Javad Heydarian, an assistant professor at Manila’s De La Salle University, thinks that if Duterte’s "pivot" to China does not bear fruit, support for him will drop.

“This flirtation with China may not be sustainable in the long run,” he said.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole