Philippines' Duterte Leaves U.S. Policymakers "Baffled"

With a familiar turn of phrase that still finds the world collectively raising its eyebrow, Rodrigo Duterte has added to his list of people and organizations that he feels should “go to hell.” The latest to earn this distinction is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is emblematic of Duterte’s desire to distance his country from what he sees as dependence on its former colonial overlord. As in previous cases, the comment was sparked by the international community’s concern over his controversial war on crime that has resulted in 4,300 extrajudicial killings.

More worrisome than these comments, which are frequently walked back, is Duterte’s equally vocal, yet more productive comments concerning a stronger relationship with China. Last week’s state visit to China resulted in new economic partnerships and promises to resolve territorial disagreements. This turn of events has left U.S. policymakers and experts wondering how this happened so quickly and where Duterte is ultimately leading Filipino foreign policy.

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