Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced a separation from the U.S. in a speech before a Beijing economic forum on Thursday, as the Philippines and China agreed to resume talks on their dispute over the South China Sea.
"Your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States … both in military and economics also,” Duterte said, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Duterte’s remarks were “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship we have with the Filipino people as well as the government there on many different levels, not just from a security perspective,” the AP reported.
Earlier Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped his Filipino counterpart’s "milestone" visit could help improve ties between the two nations.
Duterte arrived in China on Tuesday accompanied by more than 200 business leaders, aiming to improve economic links between the countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Thursday that the leaders had a “candid and friendly exchange of views” over the South China Sea, bringing them “back to the right track of dialogue and consultations to resolve relevant disputes,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
On Wednesday, Duterte further distanced his country from its longtime ally the United States regarding foreign policy.
"I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there. So time to say goodbye my friend,” he said. Duterte has previously made disparaging remarks about President Obama since taking office in June.
Duterte's comments Wednesday came as a police van smashed into demonstrators outside the American embassy in the Philippine capital Manila during an anti-United States rally.
The protesters had gathered to demand an end to the presence of U.S. troops in the country and to support a call by Duterte for a foreign policy not dependent on the U.S.
China has claimed virtually all of the South China Sea, a crucial waterway used for an estimated $5 trillion in annual trade. Five other countries including the Philippines have overlapping claims.
President Obama has said a ruling by an international tribunal in July that China can’t legally claim ownership of 90% of the South China Sea was “binding” and “helped to clarify maritime rights in the region.”