The US State Department described itself as “baffled” today by the Philippines president’s announcement that his country is formally splitting with the United States and planning to realign toward China on both a military and economic basis.
President Duterte was visiting Beijing when he made the speech, declaring “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” adding that he may go to Russia as well and offer to align with them as well.
While the White House initially tried to follow their usual attempts to deny that anything was happening in the Philippines, insisting they hadn’t received any “formal” statements changing the Philippines’ status, but since then the State Department says they’re going to seek an “explanation.”
Duterte has been talking of realigning away from the US virtually since his election, complaining that the US arms sales are based on what the US wants to sell and not what the Philippines wants to buy, and insisting that he doesn’t want to get dragged into a US war with China over the South China Sea.
The Philippines has been in America’s sphere of influence since its occupation by the US in 1898. Over a century of US dominance means the realignment is likely to be difficult and resisted by a lot of people, though Duterte appears to be retaining considerable popularity within the country.