He had earlier said that he intended to end the Philippines' 70-year alliance with US as he sought what he calls a new commercial alliance with China. Photograph: (AFP)
It is not severance of ties. When you say severance of ties, you cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that: Duterte
Asserting that he was not severing ties with long-time ally the United States, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said that he was merely pursuing a more independent foreign policy by strengthening relations with China.
"It is not severance of ties. When you say severance of ties, you cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that," the Philippine leader told reporters at a midnight news conference in his southern home city of Davao, AFP reported.
Duterte's remark came a day after he provoked fresh diplomatic alarm by announcing his "separation" from Washington. As he arrived back in the Philippines after a four-day visit to Beijing , the President struck a more conciliatory tone.
"It's in the best interest of my countrymen to maintain that relationship."
During his four-day visit to Beijing, the firebrand leader on Thursday told a group of Chinese businessmen: "I announce my separation from the United States."
He said that he intended to end the Philippines' 70-year alliance with US as he sought what he calls a new commercial alliance with China. He also said that he would seek closer ties with Russia.
Clarifying his comments on Friday, he said that what he meant was that Manila's foreign policy need not always "dovetail" with Washington.
"As in separation, what I was really saying was separation of foreign policy," he was quoted as saying by Reuters.
"In the past, and until I became president, we always follow what the United States would give the cue."
The White House, was quick to welcome the apparent shift in tone after responding to the "separation" speech by saying there had been "too many" troubling statements from Duterte recently, was quick to welcome the apparent shift in tone.
"Based on his extensive, colourful previous comments, there is greater clarity that we would like to get about the intent of President Duterte and his government," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a daily news briefing.
"But based on what you've read me that seems to be a change in tone that is more consistent with the seven-decade-long alliance between the United States and the Philippines."
(WION with inputs from AFP, Reuters)