Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Oct. 20 that he is implementing a "separation" from the United States and would instead work to strengthen the country's relationship with China in the wake of a dispute over access to the South China Sea.
"In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States," Duterte told more than 200 Chinese and Philippine business people in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, during a visit that Chinese President Xi Jinping called a "milestone," according to Reuters.
The Philippine president said that the separation would primarily be a military and economic one more than a "social" one and declared that "America has lost."
"I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines and Russia," Duterte added. "It's the only way."
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that his department will pursue "an explanation of exactly what the president meant" in his declaration, adding that the ramifications are unclear.
Philippine officials said that the nation would not be completely turning its back on the West but would instead focus on "long overdue" economic cooperation with other Asian nations.
"We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors," Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia explained in a joint statement. "We share the culture and a better understanding with our region."
Duterte's announcement comes after months of tension between himself and U.S. President Barack Obama, after Obama criticized Duterte's war on drugs, in which he has ordered law enforcement to kill drug dealers, notes The Associated Press. The U.S. president has questioned whether this violates human rights. Following Obama's comments, Duterte warned that he might "break up with America" in early October.
"Instead of helping us, the first to criticize is this State Department, so you can go to hell, Mr. Obama, you can go to hell," Duterte said at the time. "Better choose purgatory, hell is filled up."
Sources: Reuters, The Associated Press / Photo credit: Presidential Communications Operations Office/Wikimedia Commons