WASHINGTON – The United States has said it will remain a friend of the Philippines even as it seeks to pursue alliances or partnerships with China and Russia, two superpowers Washington sees as potential adversaries.
“They’re a sovereign nation and we’re certainly not going to hold them back from pursuing closer relations with either of those countries,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said at a briefing on Monday.
The United States can remain a close friend and partner of the Philippines despite President Duterte’s declaration of his intention to seek alliances or partnerships with China and Russia, Toner said.
Toner said US ties with the Philippines are one of the most enduring bilateral relationships within the Asia-Pacific region and a cornerstone of stability for 70 years.
Washington continues to work closely with and focus on its relationship with the Philippines in many areas of mutual interest including counterterrorism and economic development, he said.
“With regard to them pursuing alliances or partnerships with China and Russia, they’re a sovereign nation and we’re certainly not going to hold them back from pursuing closer relations with either of those countries. And it’s not a zero-sum game,” he said.
Asked if Duterte’s barbed remarks against President Barack Obama and the US government was what one would expect from an ally, Toner said: “We’re not deaf; we do hear what he says. And yet, I would just say that our cooperation with the Philippine government remains strong and unabated so we continue to engage in close cooperation on a number of areas of interest.
“We’re going to keep up that cooperation until we hear otherwise,” he added.
Despite Duterte’s public pronouncements “we’ve not, though, seen anything with regard to our relations with the Philippines, that would indicate a shift, if you will, or a turning away.
“And so US cooperation continues. I don’t know what to call it – a disconnect or what – but we continue to work with the Filipino government,” he said.