Duterte to ASEAN: Choosing sides in US-China feud a “strategic mistake”

President Rodrigo Duterte joined other heads of governments and states at the the 35th ASEAN Summit Plenary on November 2./PCOO/

(Eagle News)–President Rodrigo Duterte has urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations not to choose or “be forced to choose” between the United States and China.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at the 35th ASEAN summit plenary, Duterte called the move a “strategic mistake” which past Philippine administrations had committed and which he was “rectifying through his independent foreign policy.”

According to Panelo, the President noted  the changing regional landscape “which recognizes the rise of the dragon (China) in a world still dominated by a soaring eagle (US).”

“Countries must not take sides to avoid becoming embroiled in a geopolitical game…It drags countries into a vicious cycle of power balancing and security dilemmas and undo hard-won gains and development for their people. The ASEAN, (Duterte) said, must not allow this to happen,” Panelo said.

Panelo said Duterte noted that the Philippines, for its part, supports an open, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture, adding that “isolating anyone and choosing countries to choose sides is a dangerous game to play.”

Duterte, Panelo said, also talked about the “challenges” that face ASEAN, including transnational crimes, advances in technology, protectionism and trade-related protectionism among ASEAN partners, environmental sustainability and geopolitical transformation.

“Let us build on the achievements of the past and make ASEAN even stronger to face the challenges of the present,” Duterte was quoted as saying.

The President is on a four-day visit to Thailand.