Senior US diplomat in Manila seeking clarifications over 'separation' threat

Officials will also discuss the overall bilateral relations between the two allies.

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Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay speaks during a news conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay city Metro Manila, Philippines on July 27 Reuters

The most senior US diplomat in Asia will meet Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay on Monday to discuss the issue of 'separation' between the two long-time allies, the US embassy in Manila has said.

The US State Department said this visit is part of the envoy's three-nation tour in Southeast Asia including the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia.

Daniel Russel, the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, visits Manila amid the confusion over the status of ties.

Last week at a major business forum in China, Philippine President Duterte had declared: "In this venue, your honours... I announce my separation from the United States... Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost."

But later on Saturday, he tweaked the brash declaration and said the United States, one of the largest trading partners of the country, remains the Philippine's "closest friend".

Molly Koscina, the US embassy press attaché, said Russel was to meet Yasay. However, she did not reveal other details regarding the issues to be discussed at the meeting.

Mixed signals

According to a Philippine foreign affairs official, who requested anonymity, Russel and Yasay will discuss the overall bilateral relations of the two allies following Duterte's "separation" statement in China.

"The U.S. wants a clarification from the Philippines and what direction the alliance will take," the official told Reuters.

"I think the U.S. is confused. It is getting mixed signals from Manila," the official added.

Russel is expected to stay in the Philippines till Tuesday and to meet government officials. He is also scheduled to have lunch with Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) participants, before he leaves for Thailand.

Reports say he will be in Thailand until Wednesday and will convey his condolences on the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He will also meet the Thai officials to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues.

After Thailand, Russel will fly directly to Cambodia to complete the three-nation swing. He will meet the government and opposition party officials, civil society organizations in Cambodia and address a group of YSEALI members.