President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte attends a news conference during his visit in Beijing, China, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday he did not mean he would cut off ties with the United States when he said in China that he was separating from the U.S., adding it's in his country's best interest to stay with America.It's to the best interest of my country that we maintain that relationship," Duterte said, adding that Filipinos were not ready to embrace such an option.What he meant by his remarks in China, Duterte said, was ending a Philippine foreign policy that closely leaned toward the U.S.Ahead of his China visit, Duterte made a series of pronouncements to curb Philippine security engagements with the U.S., including the removal of American counter-terrorism forces in the country's south and his opposition to planned joint patrols with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea. Duterte's reaching out to China, which has been locked in longstanding territorial disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea, and his severe criticisms of the U.S. has come under fire.
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