United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Friday assured the Philippines of Washington’s commitment to its long-standing alliance with Manila even as he congratulated newly designated Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on his appointment as the country’s top diplomat.
“The Secretary reaffirmed the longstanding US-Philippines alliance and recognized the Philippines’ important role in the Indo-Pacific region,” the State Department said in a statement, adding that Pompeo spoke by phone with Locsin.
“Pompeo and Locsin also discussed ongoing efforts to address regional issues such as North Korea, the South China Sea and counterterrorism,” it added.
Locsin, a former journalist, lawmaker and a lawyer, replaced Alan Peter Cayetano who is seeking a congressional seat in 2019.
He was the Philippines’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York prior to his appointment to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The US State Department’s move came amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy pivot towards China.
Duterte’s “closeness” toward China and his harsh criticisms of the US have raised questions about the trajectory of the 67-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty of Manila and Washington, but relations remained steadfast Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said in an earlier interview.
As a treaty ally of the US, the Philippines’ military had deep ties with its American counterparts and received defense equipment, weapons and training from US forces for decades.
“Any other militaries, including that of China, will have to struggle to reach the level of that alliance,” Romualdez said.
Duterte had severely criticized the US government during the time of then-President Barack Obama for raising concerns over his campaign against illegal drugs.
He also vowed to realign the country’s foreign policy by befriending China and Russia and stepping back on military engagements with the US.