U.S. ambassador presents credentials to Duterte

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim presented his credentials to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, December 6, less than a week after he arrived in Manila.

"Thanks to President Duterte for the warm welcome," Kim said in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon. 

Kim pointed out that the relationship between the Philippines and the US "remains strong."

"I am excited to further strengthen that relationship," Kim said.

In a press briefing after meeting Duterte, Kim said he had a "lengthy and substantive discussion" with the Philippine President but did not elaborate.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the two spoke for around an hour without other officials in the room.

To journalists, Kim spoke of the "deep bond" and "strong alliance" between the US and the Philippines, one founded on mutual respect.

"This important relationship is, of course, based on mutual respect. I am confident that our mutual respect combined with the close ties and shared history and values will ensure stability in our relationship over the long term and the years and decades to come," he said.

Kim presented his credentials to Duterte only 5 days after he landed in the Philippines on December 1.

Having presented his credentials, Kim can officially begin his work as US envoy to the Philippines.

Shortly before meeting Duterte, Kim visited the monument of national hero Jose Rizal in Manila to pay his respects – a custom among diplomats. 

Korean-born ambassador

Born in Seoul, South Korea, the ambassador previously served as special representative for North Korea policy and deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the US State Department.

He also worked as US ambassador to Korea from 2011 to 2014.

Kim replaced Ambassador Philip Goldberg, the subject of Duterte's tirades. The President, for one, called Goldberg "gay" and denounced Washington as "hypocritical" for meddling in Manila's affairs.

The relationship between the Philippines and the US is expected to warm up, however, once US President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20, 2017.

Duterte called Trump on Friday, December 3, and the two had "very engaging, animated conversation" about their countries' relations. Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said this is a sign of "improving" Philippine-US ties.

Earlier, too, Abella hailed the US for naming an ambassador to Manila who has Asian roots. – With reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com