When President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines announced a “separation from the United States” and a warming of Sino-Philippines relations during his state visit in China on October 20, disagreements over China’s activities in the South China Sea entered a new phase. The Filipino president himself seems ready to disregard the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling against China’s claim in South China Sea, including Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.
Despite Duterte’s strong words during his China visit, it is not yet clear to what degree the Philippines will reorient its foreign policy to align itself closer with China, or how badly his rhetoric will damage the U.S.-Philippines alliance over the long term. His rhetoric toward fellow U.S. ally Japan has been much warmer. In Duterte’s visit to Japan on October 26, he described the Philippines and Japan as “closer than brothers.” In the Joint Statement issued after the official bilateral meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Duerte declared that their two countries are committed to strengthen their strategic partnership “based on such common values as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, respect for basic human rights, and a free and open economy.” The two leaders also acknowledged that the South China Sea issue needs to be settled through “rule-based approach.”
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