MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday met with United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Sung to discuss the situation in Marawi City.
In a tweet, Kim said the US reaffirmed its support for the Philippines in its counter-terrorism and rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City.
Marawi, considered the most important Muslim city in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, is currently under siege from Islamist militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
At least 459 people - 336 suspected terrorists, 39 civilians, and 84 government troops - have died since the clashes erupted.
Some 400,000 civilians from Marawi and outlying areas have also been displaced as a result of the fighting.
The presence of ISIS sympathizers has alarmed the US and the Philippines' neighbors, which fear that the notorious terror group was seeking to establish a new front in Asia amid its successive losses in Iraq and Syria.
The meeting between Kim and Duterte comes weeks after the US announced that it was extending “technical assistance” to the Philippines in its fight against the Islamist militants in the besieged city.
Duterte said he was not aware of the US aid, but nonetheless welcomed it.
The meeting was also held amid China’s declaration that it was open to holding joint military exercises and intelligence sharing with the Philippines to counter terrorism.
Ties between the Manila and Beijing have improved since Duterte took power, as he chose to downplay the Philippines' territorial dispute with China in pursuit of improved economic relations with Asia's largest economy.
This as Duterte pursued a foreign policy pivot, which entailed deviating from the Philippines' traditional alliances, including its long-standing ties with the United States.
Amid its more amiable relations with the Philippines, Beijing has ignored Manila's' arbitration victory that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, instead ramping up its militarization and island-building activities in the waters.