The United States backs Philippine’s efforts to boost its ties with China and does not consider Duterte’s state visit to Beijing as an insult, said State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner over the weekend.
“As to whether he’s pivoting east or west, I can’t speak to that. Certainly, it’s in the Philippines’ interest to have strong relations in the region, and as much as this is an effort in that direction, we would support it,” Toner said when prompted for a remark on Duterte’s visit in Beijing.
Toner added that Washington wants to maintain close relations and cooperation with Manila when to security and counternarcotics, among others.
He said that they are not singling out the Philippines when it comes to their criticism of the alleged human rights abuses in the country linked to the drug war.
Duterte continues to slam the US for its expression of concern over the summary killings in the continuing campaign against drugs in the Philippines. However, Toner said that despite Duterte’s remarks against the US, they have not seen any signs that the Philippines is “turning away” from the US.
Toner added that they will maintain the “very strong, very long historic relationship” with the Philippines.
At the same time, Toner urged the Philippine government to conduct investigations into the extrajudicial killings and to ensure that the police are compliant with their international human rights obligations.