A STATE Department official is expected to ask for a clarification on what President Rodrigo Duterte meant by “separation” from the United States when he meets with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. today.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel will be in Manila from Oct. 22-25 to meet with government officials and have lunch with Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) participants.
He will proceed to Bangkok, Thailand, on October 25–26, to convey his condolences on the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and meet with Thai officials to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues. The last leg of his trip will be in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on October 27, where he will meet with government and opposition party officials, civil society organizations, and address a group of YSEALI members.
The US Embassy in Manila declined to comment on the focus of conversation during the meeting between Yasay and Russel.
“I can’t really talk on the focus of their conversation,” said Molly Koscina, spokesperson of the US Embassy in Manila.
State Department spokesperson John Kirby said Russel’s trip to the Philippines was “long-scheduled” but it will give the US an opportunity to try to get a better explanation of what the President meant by “separation” and where that is going.
“When we heard what he (President Duterte) initially said in Beijing, it was confusing and we would be interested in hearing a deeper explanation of what it meant,” Kirby said.
Duterte said on Friday night upon his arrival from Beijing, where he announced the Philippines’ military and economic separation from the US, that “separation” from the country’s long time ally does not mean severing diplomatic ties with the US.
With the President’s statement that separation from the US is “not severance of ties,” Kirby said “we’ll see where the conversations go” when Russel visits Manila.
The State Department official said on Friday “we’re going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the President meant when he talked about separation from the US.”
He said “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means in all its ramifications, so we’re going to be seeking a clarification on that.”