Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced Thursday his country's "separation" from the United States, while visiting Beijing. Duterte remarked Wednesday it's "time to say goodbye, my friend."
"America has lost now," Duterte said in China's Great Hall of the People. "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. It's the only way."
"Your stay in my country was for your own benefit. So time to say goodbye, my friend," Duterte said Wednesday of the U.S. to an audience of Filipino expatriates. "No more American interference. No more American exercises. What for?"
It appears Duterte could have been only referring to U.S. military presence in his country, but Duterte also added, "I will not go to America anymore. I will just be insulted there."
Duterte's remarks come after weeks of concerns from Western observers that Duterte is pivoting away from Washington and toward Beijing.
"Though we come to your country close to winter, it is the springtime of our relationship," Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Perfecto Yasay, Duterte's foreign minister, maintained as recently as Wednesday that Filipino leadership is only seeking an "independent foreign policy" and that recent moves "do not mean that we are weakening ties with the rest of the members of the international community."
The Philippines and China have feuded over the South China Sea, but the two countries agreed Thursday to reopen talks on the matter, after a hiatus of several years, said Liu Zhenmin, the Chinese vice foreign minister.
A senior Chinese official pressed Thursday that "this issue is not the sum total of bilateral relations," a day after Yasay said the issue "should not be an impediment or a barrier in fostering our closer ties with each other."
Xi hailed the visit as a "milestone" and said he hoped it could "fully improve" ties. The BCC reports China is touting the visit as "a new starting-point" in bilateral relations.