MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday met with United States (US) Ambassador Sung Kim in Malacañang, as Washington seeks to bolster ties with Manila in the face of China’s growing influence in the region.
Kim said he and Duterte discussed “shared goals, including defense priorities and economic partnership.”
“Our alliance remains strong and iron-clad,” Kim said on Twitter.
Kim and Duterte’s meeting in Malacañang came on the heels of the chief executive’s rejection of a US offer of F-16 fighter jets.
Duterte has lamented that US military assistance usually comes with conditions, allegedly unlike China's or Russia's.
Duterte’s meeting with Sung was not included in the official schedule released by the Palace to the media, but the President himself revealed in a meeting with Filipino athletes who bagged medals at the Asian Games that he was running late for his meeting with the US envoy.
Duterte and Kim have already met several times. Observers say Kim’s Korean roots have helped him establish better rapport with Duterte compared to his predecessor, Philip Goldberg.
The US has been a long-standing ally of the Philippines, but under Duterte, this relationship has been tested due to criticisms of his government’s war on drugs and human rights record by the Obama administration as well as some bureaucrats and legislators post-Obama.