How US envoy put PH-US relations back on track

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 18 2018 11:40 PM | Updated as of Dec 18 2018 11:41 PM

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What US did regarding South China Sea dispute under Duterte administration

MANILA - The US envoy to the Philippines has admitted that the early months of the Duterte administration brought challenges to the relationship between Washington and Manila.

US Ambassador Sung Kim said he put a lot of effort in building a constructive relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Kim and the President met in Malacañang last September, following the chief executive’s rejection of a US offer of F-16 fighter jets.

Kim said he prefers to look at the positive developments between the two nations' ties.

"Even among best friends, there are some times issues and differences. The important thing is how we actually work through and resolve and address those issues. I think if you look at the past two years, we’ve had a lot of exciting developments," Kim told ANC's Beyond Politics.

"For example, President Trump had a wonderful visit here. I think it wss obvious to everyone that President Trump and President Duterte connected very well, had a very substantive discussion."

Duterte previously lashed out against US officials including former President Barack Obama for criticizing his administration's war against drugs. Duterte has since apologized.  

Last week, the US returned the historic Balangiga bells which were taken by its soldiers as war booty from Eastern Samar in 1901.

This followed decades of negotiations between Manila and Washington, underscored by Duterte's call for the bells' return during his 2017 State of the Nation Address. 

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The ambassador, meanwhile, dismissed Duterte's accusations that Washington failed to stop Beijing from militarizing islands in the South China Sea.

He maintains the United States has been consistent in its calls against aggressive unilateral actions.

"China has obviously taken unilateral measures and in fact they have, they had indicated that they will refrain from militarization but it appears that they have not," he said.

Duterte earlier warned against infuriating China, which he said was already “in possession” of South China Sea, as any “friction” in the disputed sea might erupt into a conflict that will affect peace and stability in the region.

The United States had stepped up its challenge to China’s growing dominance in the vital sea lane by sending ships and aircraft conducting freedom of navigation and overflight operations.

China, which has built islands in the disputed sea, has lashed out at the US for what it believes as encroachment of its territory.

"I’m not sure if it's really fair to point a finger at the United States because we're not doing anything. It's China that's taking aggressive unilateral actions in the disputed area."