In what could be described as Rodrigo Duterte's most conciliatory statement in relation to the US, the Philippines president has softened his stance regarding "separation" from Washington. He claimed that his previous comments regarding breaking ties with the long-term ally, and plans of creating stronger relationship with China instead, were a personal opinion.

"The alliances are alive," Duterte told Japanese media in Manila on 24 October, according to Kyodo News. "There should be no worry about changes of alliances. I do not need to have alliances with other nations."

He explained that he only planned to create an "alliance of trade and commerce" with China.

The news comes as a relief to Japan, which has been attempting to strengthen ties with the Philippines to counter-balance Beijing.

"It's certainly unfortunate and we are worried, but such things will not change Japan's commitment to the Philippines," Narushige Michishita, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and former defence official told Reuters.

Duterte is expected to start his visit to Japan with a low key dinner with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on 25 October. "I believe ties between Japan and the Philippines are very important and that seeking to stabilise bilateral ties will lead straight to peace, stability and prosperity of the region as well as of the international community," Kishida told reporters.

Following the dinner meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold talks with Duterte at his residence in Tokyo the next evening. Japanese officials said that while Abe will attempt to explain the importance of the US' role in the region, he will not overtly try to mediate between Washington and Manila.

Rodrigo Duterte war on drugs
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says he only wants to create an alliance of trade and commerce with China REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr