US swears in new envoy to the Philippines
State Secretary John Kerry affirms ties with Manila despite recent tensions caused by President Rodrigo Duterte’s profane outbursts
Secretary of State John Kerry expressed confidence Thursday that the US relationship with the Philippines can survive recent turbulence as he swore in a new US ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation.
Kerry administered the oath of office to Sung Kim, formerly the chief US envoy for North Korea policy, in a ceremony at the State Department.
Kim, a career diplomat, takes up his new position in turbulent times. Outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in June after winning a presidential election, has been antagonistic to Washington over human rights criticisms.
Duterte has forged closer ties with China — a blow to the Obama administration effort to forge deeper ties with Asia. He has declared his desire to scale back military engagements with the US and last month told President Barack Obama to “go to hell.”
But Kerry remained confident about the future of the 70-year alliance between the US and its former colony, “notwithstanding a difference here or there about one thing or another.”
“Democratic elections bring change, and we must have the wisdom to recognise and adjust to that change. But the logic of our alliance and why we have stood together for so long,” Kerry said, “are as compelling today as they have ever been.”
Kerry met with Duterte in Manila in July and said Thursday he hopes to visit again before he ends his terms as secretary of state.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the US continues to regard the Philippines as an ally but stressed it isn’t America’s only friend in the region, where Washington has been pushing against China’s assertive behaviour in the disputed South China Sea.
“Our strategy, however, is strong and isn’t dependent upon any single one of our friends or allies out there. And we have many. And there’s a huge demand for us to do more. And the reason for that, quite honestly, just to be direct about it, is that many of them have concerns about Chinese behaviour,” Carter said during a question and answer session with soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.