Philippines pledges cooperation with new US top diplomat


Posted at Mar 14 2018 08:07 AM

FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, February 13, 2018. Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippine government on Wednesday said it will continue to cooperate and collaborate with Washington after US President Donald Trump appointed a new Secretary of State. 
Trump on Tuesday sacked his top diplomat Rex Tillerson, who had frequently been at odds with him, and named current Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Mike Pompeo as Secretary-designate. 

"We congratulate Mike Pompeo on his designation as the new Secretary of State. We look forward to working with him and further strengthening the special relationship between the Philippines and the United States," Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. 

"We are confident of more cooperation and collaboration with Washington with Secretary-designate Pompeo at the helm of the Department of State," it added. 

The DFA also thanked Tillerson for the "friendship and the support" he extended to the Philippines "when our relations with the United States were facing challenges." 

Tillerson in 2017 paid a courtesy call to President Rodrigo Duterte in the wake of his string of stinging retorts against Washington’s criticism of his war on drugs. 

Tillerson is a "good friend of the Philippines who played a crucial role in strengthening our relations with the United States during his term as Secretary of State," the DFA said. 

"We pray for the best for Secretary Tillerson in all his future endeavors," said the agency. 

Tillerson's sacking caps a tumultuous tenure at the State Department.

He was repeatedly forced to deny he had fallen out with Trump -- vowing to remain in post despite a sensational report that he once dubbed the president a "moron."

A respected businessman, his tenure drew scorn from Trump's opponents and the Washington policy elite.

During his time in the job, he was faced with an extraordinary array of foreign policy challenges -- from North Korean nuclear threats, to Russian intervention in Ukraine, Syria and Western elections, to attacks on US diplomats in Cuba.
But his efforts were often overshadowed by Trump's decidedly un-diplomatic style and streams of taunting tweets that have stirred international tensions.

Tillerson was thousands of miles away in Africa when Trump made the snap decision to meet Kim, suspending his schedule on grounds he was "unwell" before cutting short his trip. 

In a cruel twist of fate, one of Trump's most public clashes with Tillerson came when the president accused his top diplomat of "wasting his time" pursuing contacts with North Korea.

But in his farewell comments, Tillerson talked up his achievements in the standoff -- suggesting the prospect of talks with Kim was made possible by the hard work of his State Department and allies. 

In announcing Tillerson's sacking, Trump lavished praise on Pompeo, a former US army officer and congressman who led the CIA for nearly 14 months, calling him "the right person for the job at this critical juncture."

To succeed Pompeo at the Central Intelligence Agency, Trump nominated Gina Haspel, a controversial career intelligence officer who is the first woman tapped for the post.

Haspel has been reported to have overseen a CIA "black site" in Thailand where Al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded after the 9/11 attacks. 

Both Pompeo and Haspel require Senate confirmation to assume their new posts. A hearing for Pompeo is expected in April. 

With a report from Agence France-Presse