MANILA, Philippines – US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim vowed on Tuesday, January 24, that Washington will not ask Manila to be its "proxy" in issues such as the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.
"We have tremendous respect for the Philippines as a sovereign state. We're not going to ask the Philippines to be a proxy for us on anything – South China Sea or some other issue," Kim said in a roundtable discussion with select Filipino journalists, including Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa.
Kim made these remarks after Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told major global powers that Southeast Asia was not a "proxy" for superpower rivalries.
"I agree with Secretary Lorenzana that the Philippines should not be a proxy for anybody," the US ambassador said.
Kim, a Korean-born diplomat who served as US ambassador to Korea from 2011 to 2014, has been in the Philippines for less than two months.
He succeeded Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who earned the ire of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for criticizing one of his rape jokes.
Duterte has also slammed the US as "hypocritical" for meddling in Manila's affairs.
Kim admitted on Tuesday that the Philippines and the US "had a rough patch" in the second half of 2016. The ambassador, however, said he is confident about the countries' relationship.
"Both sides, Washington and Manila, remain committed to this relationship. It is a relationship built on mutual affection, mutual respect, and essentially a great deal of warmth between Filipinos and Americans," the US ambassador said. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com