DESPITE President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-American tirades, new US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said he is ready to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries.
In his arrival speech Thursday night, Kim, the first US envoy of Asian decent to be stationed in the Philippines, also expressed confidence that the relationship between Washington and Manila would deepen under his watch.
He said the deep bond between the two peoples is based not only on a shared history, but also the four million Filipino-Americans residing in the United States, and the 250,000 US nationals living and working in the Philippines.
“I think there is a great deal of respect, affection and admiration between Americans and the Filipinos,” he said.
Kim arrived three days after an improvised bomb was found near the US Embassy in Manila.
The bomb threat sparked fears that local terrorist groups might be plotting to strike at strategic targets to divert the government troops from their full-scale offensive against the Maute Group in Central Mindanao.
The bomb threat led Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa to raise the terror alert level to 3.
Kim said he was eager to get to work.
“No rest at all. I get started first thing tomorrow morning [Friday] on my new adventure,” he said.
A career foreign service officer, Kim was the US ambassador to South Korea from 2011 to 2014.
His recent posts are special representative for North Korea policy and deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
He earned his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and received a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola University Law School in Los Angeles in 1985 and a Master of Laws degree from the London School of Economics.
Outgoing US President Barack Obama nominated Kim to succeed US ambassador Philip Goldberg, who recently ended his three-year term in Manila.
President Duterte had branded Goldberg “an annoying homosexual son of a whore” after the envoy criticized him for making a joke about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary in Davao years ago.
Amid his attacks on the US, Duterte has declared a shift to an independent foreign policy that leans toward China and the country’s other Asian neighbors.
“We welcome the new Ambassador of the United States to the Philippines and we hope that we could have better ties and negotiations, diplomacy and exchange with the United States, now with an Asian who is our counterpart from the US,” Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said in a Palace press briefing.