South China Sea: Duterte to create US alliance to take on Beijing over disputed waters

Duterte set to adopt 'more friendly' US approach says expert

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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s new policies are set to be “more friendly” towards the US following his failure to make a deal with China over the South China Sea. Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, Bill Hayton, explained Mr Rodrigo has faced “a bit of backlash” for his approach to Beijing’s movements in the South China Sea. Speaking to, Mr Hayton said: “Mr Duterte is a very individual politician. I guess you could call him a populist.

“He doesn’t like the United States and he enjoys winding up American audiences.

“He’s a nationalist, he wants people to be proud of being Filipino and that’s led him into these strange positions where he’s thought being closer to China is a way of the Philippines for itself.

“I think there’s quite a lot of push back in the Philippines now. I think people have seen that even though they’re trying to do a deal with China, China hasn’t been willing to do a deal on terms that the Philippines can agree to.

“I think that’s causing a bit of a backlash. Mr Duterte’s got another year left in office and I think we’re going to see a slightly different set of policies coming out of him.

“One’s that are more skeptical towards China and by default be more friendly towards the United States.”

It comes as Vice President Kamala Harris will focus on defending international rules in the South China Sea, strengthening US regional leadership and expanding security cooperation during her trip to Vietnam and Singapore this month, a senior White House official told Reuters.

Harris will be the first U.S. vice president to visit Vietnam as Washington seeks to bolster international support to counter China’s growing global influence.

The US official said Washington saw both countries as critical partners given their locations, the size of their economies, trade ties and security partnerships on issues such as the South China Sea, which China claims almost in its entirety.

Chinese military ‘live-fire exercise’ in South China Sea in May

Former US foe Vietnam has been a vocal opponent of China’s South China Sea claims.

Countries in the region largely welcome the US military presence there in the face of China’s militarization of the waterway and its vast coastguard and fishing fleet.

“We do not want to see any country dominate that region or take advantage of the power situation to compromise the sovereignty of others,” the White House official said.


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“The Vice President is going to underscore that there should be free passage for trade, throughout the South China Sea, and no single country should disrespect the right of others.”

The US Navy has maintained a steady pattern of freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and near Taiwan but these appear to have done little to discourage Beijing.

Harris’ trip will follow one by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week to Hanoi, where he sought to nudge forward steadily deepening security ties.

It will also follow high-level talks between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and senior Chinese diplomats last month that did little to ease deeply strained ties.

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