The US Department of State has said that it has not received any communication from Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's government regarding the withdrawal of American troops from Mindanao, southern Philippines. Spokesperson John Kirby said Washington would remain committed to its alliance with Manila.
Duterte, on Monday (12 September), had demanded that the US special forces leave the Philippines citing that they are in danger of being kidnapped by terror outfit Abu Sayyaf. The American troops have been providing military advice to Filipinos, who are fighting the Islamist extremists in the south-east Asian nation.
Kirby said that Washington will not take any action or respond to Duterte's comment until the US receives an official request for the troop's withdrawal.
"I've seen the comments. I've seen them in press reporting, and what I can tell you is that we're not aware of any official communication by the Philippine Government to that effect and to seek that result. So we're going to stay in touch with our counterparts in the Philippine Government," he said.
Speaking to reporters during the daily press briefing, Kirby cited the history between the two countries and stressed that the US is "committed to our alliance with the Philippines".
When asked if the US would not respond to this specific comment by Duterte, he said that it would not be a wise choice for Obama administration to take a decision only based on media reports about the matter.
Kirby also added that Washington shares the concerns of Duterte about the safety of American forces in Manila, the Philippines. "It's one of the prime considerations of American military leadership."
However, to a question if he does not consider this a good enough reason to withdraw the troops, Kirby said: "I don't want to get ahead of decisions that, as far as we know, haven't actually been made or certainly communicated to the United State Government."
He emphasised that if and when Duterte's government communicate its request to Pentagon, the matter needs to be decided by the defence department and not the state.
Meanwhile, Filipino Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay has stated that Manila will continue to respect and honour its commitment to Washington, a day after the tough-talking Filipino president further complicated his relationship with the US by kicking out the American forces out of his country.
"The president has said, even as a priority statement in his inaugural address, that we will respect and continue to honor our treaty obligations and commitments particularly even with the U.S.," Reuters quoted Yasay as saying on Tuesday.
"His statements now are not intended and should not be taken as a signal that he will take back his previous statements insofar as respecting these agreements are concerned," Yasay added.