A senior-most US diplomat for Asia has said on Monday (24 October) that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-US rhetoric and other controversial remarks have sparked distress not just in the US but also in other countries.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel is on a scheduled trip to Manila where he met Filipino Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay.

"I pointed out to Secretary Yasay that the successions of controversial statements and comments, and the climate of uncertainty about the Philipppines' intentions, have created consternation in a number of countries, not only in mine," Rappler cited Russel as saying.

"This is not a positive trend," he said, while adding that other countries are also concerned about the loss of life in connection to Duterte's anti-crime campaign, which has reportedly killed more than 3,500 since 1 July, 2016.

Russel's trip has come at a time when confusion has been lingering over the status of Manila's ties with Washington, after Duterte bid "goodbye" to the US during his China visit last week. Washington has said it is facing a period of "uncertainty" over Duterte's comments.

While he was in Beijing, Duterte announced his country's "separation from the United States", including cutting military and economic ties. However, after arriving in Davao city after his four-day visit, he said he never wanted to sever diplomatic ties with the US but he would "chart another way" in terms of foreign policy that is not influenced by the western power. He continued to call the US as the Philippine's "closest friend."

Russel and Yasay are expected to discuss where the US currently stands in its ties with the Philippines and to discuss the overall bilateral relations of the long-time allies.

"The U.S. wants a clarification from the Philippines and what direction the alliance will take," a Philippine foreign affairs official told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

"I think the U.S. is confused. It is getting mixed signals from Manila," he added.

Russel is also expected to visit Thailand on 26 October to convey his condolences on the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and also to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues with Thai officials. He is later scheduled to visit Cambodia.

Daniel Russel
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel meets Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay to get clarity on the confusion lingering over Duterte's "separation" from the US comment Reuters/Romeo Ranoco