The Latest: US puzzled by Duterte comments

BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s meetings with top officials in China (all times local):

1:45 a.m.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby says Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks declaring a separation from the United States are “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship” between the two countries.

“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from us,” Kirby said Thursday. “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means and all its ramifications.”

Kirby said the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, Daniel Russel, is traveling to Manila this weekend and would hold conversations with Filipino government officials.

Despite Duterte’s increasingly sharp criticism of the United States, Kirby said the two countries’ 70-year alliance hasn’t yet been affected.


8 p.m.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has told an audience of Chinese and Filipino officials and businessmen that he’s announcing his “separation from the United States,” a longtime ally.

The Philippine leader said Thursday: “Your honors, in this venue I announce my separation from the United States... both in military and economics also.” His remarks were met with applause.

Duterte was not more specific in his latest pronouncement of plans to scale back the Philippines’ engagements with the U.S.

But the Philippine defense secretary told senators recently that Duterte sometimes makes remarks on Philippine-U.S.-military relations without consulting Cabinet officials.

Duterte’s moves to limit engagements with visiting American troops will impede Washington’s plans to expand the footprint of U.S. forces in Southeast Asia.


7:40 p.m.

The Philippines says China’s president has committed more than $9 billion in low-interest loans to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation in his meeting with the Philippine leader who has set aside territorial disputes in a bid for Beijing’s help.

The Presidential Communications Office in Manila said in a statement Thursday that the loans that Chinese leader Xi Jinping offered will go toward funding development projects.

The office says about a third of the $9 billion loan offer will come from private banks. About $15 million in loans will go toward drug rehabilitation programs.


6 p.m.

Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez says his country and China will sign $13.5 billion of deals during his president’s visit to China this week.

Lopez was speaking Thursday at a business forum in Beijing attended by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and various Chinese and Filipino officials.

The forum followed meetings between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who hailed the Southeast Asian nation leader’s visit as being of “milestone significance.”

Earlier in the day, the leaders oversaw the signing of agreements that touched on the financing of infrastructure projects, boosting trade and tourism, lifting export restrictions and other issues.

Duterte has sought China’s help by setting aside the thorny issue of territorial disputes.


3:20 p.m.

A Chinese senior diplomat says Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte did not discuss whether China would allow Filipino fishermen to return to Scarborough Shoal, an outcome likely to disappoint the Southeast Asian country.

Scarborough Shoal is the fishing ground China seized in 2012 that is the crux of the China-Philippines territorial dispute. An international tribunal found the Philippines and China both retained traditional fishing rights in the area.

Before his trip to China, Duterte said he would ask Beijing to allow Filipino fishermen to again operate in the area.

Vice Minister Liu Zhenmin also says China will lift restrictions on imports of tropical fruit from the Philippines and also cancel a travel advisory that had discouraged Chinese tourists from going to the Philippines.


3 p.m.

After Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping wrapped up their talks, the two leaders oversaw the signing of 13 documents.

The documents covered cooperation in economic, cultural, tourism, trade, anti-narcotics and maritime affairs, including the setting up of a joint committee between their coast guards.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin also says the two sides are restoring diplomatic and “defense security” discussions, without elaborating.

Officials signed a memorandum of understanding on a number of infrastructure projects for which China would provide financing. No details were provided.


2 p.m.

A senior Chinese diplomat says his country and the Philippines have agreed to resume a bilateral dialogue on their dispute over the South China Sea, in what appears to be a diplomatic victory for Beijing several months after being handed a defeat by an international tribunal.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters: “Both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relationship.”

He adds that the leaders only touched on the topic briefly during their talks.

Liu says the two sides agreed to return to the approach used five years ago of seeking a settlement through bilateral dialogue.

Such an approach had been suspended after China seized control of the Scarborough Shoal and the Philippines launched the tribunal arbitration process.


1:05 p.m.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has hailed a warming of relations with China as “springtime” as he thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his country’s hospitality and said relations between the countries go back centuries.

Duterte says: “China has been a friend of the Philippines and the roots of our bonds are very deep and not easily severed.”

“Even as we arrive in Beijing, close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship.”

Xi and Duterte’s talks began after the Southeast Asian leader was greeted by Xi with full military honors at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of the ceremonial legislature in the heart of Beijing.

Duterte has walked a tightrope in trying to mend damaged relations with China while defending his country’s claims in the disputed South China Sea.


12:30 p.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, remarked that this was the first meeting between the two leaders since ties began improving following Duterte’s election.

Xi says: “This truly has milestone significance for China-Philippine relations.”

In a reference to recent territorial tensions in the South China Sea, Xi said that “although we have weathered storms, the basis of our friendship and our desire for cooperation has not changed.”

Xi also extended his sympathies to Duterte over the destruction caused by Typhoon Haima, which has killed at least four people in the northern Philippines.

The two leaders are due to oversee the signing of a raft of agreements between their governments following their discussions.