A top US State Department official will be visiting the Philippines this weekend as they seek an explanation from Philippine authorities on President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he will "separate" from the country's top trading partner and long-time ally, the United States.
During a press briefing in Washington, the US State Department announced that Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel will be pursuing a "long-scheduled" plan to visit the Philippines "to try to get a better explanation of what was meant by “separation” and where that’s going."
"We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the President meant when he talked about separation from the U.S. It’s not clear to us exactly what that means in all its ramifications, so we’re going to be seeking a clarification on that," State Department spokesperson John Kirby said.
"Obviously, we believe that there’s certainly room for – well, we have an interest in trying to gain a little bit more clarity on what he meant," Kirby added.
"This is yet another string in some pretty strong rhetoric that we think, we believe, is at odds with the kind of relationship that we have had and continue to have with the Filipino people," he explained.
The White House, meanwhile, stressed that the Philippine government has not officially asked to end any security or economic ties between Washington and Manila.
"We have not received any official requests from Filipino officials to alter any of our many issues where we bilaterally cooperate," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.