Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: US Embassy press attaché has hands full in the Philippines

Molly Rutledge Koscina found her hands full when she took on the job as press attaché and first secretary of the US Embassy over a month ago. She succeeded former spokesperson Kurt Hoyer. “Since I’ve been here, it’s really been nonstop press queries,” Koscina told Inquirer editors. Koscina admitted that in her 12 years in the US State Department, and her previous postings in Havana, Cuba, and Beijing and Shanghai in China, she had not encountered anything like a President mouthing off against a traditional ally. “In my memory, there were never words like these against the United States,” Koscina said. Since becoming President, Mr. Duterte has declared he was no fan of the US, notwithstanding the Philippines’ long-standing ties with the world’s most powerful nation. In recent weeks, the President has thrown an expletive against President Obama (among other world leaders, including Pope Francis and the United Nations’ Ban Ki-moon), used a sexist slur against outgoing US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, and announced he was sending the US forces in Mindanao packing, as well as ending 34 years of joint military exercises with the US. In response, Obama canceled a scheduled meeting with Mr. Duterte on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Laos in early September. Incensed by criticisms about extrajudicial killings and human rights violations spawned by his war on drugs, President Duterte has called out the US for “hypocrisy,” and served notice that he would seek new alliances with China and Russia. Such is the current state of PH-US relations, and Koscina finds her job cut out for her and her deputy, Emma Nagy. But the US had yet to receive official communication stating a change of status in the Philippines’ diplomatic relations or military alliance with the US, Koscina said. In the absence of any written notice, she said, the US side will honor long-standing ties with the Philippines. With Goldberg wrapping up his tenure as ambassador, the White House has announced the appointment of Sung Y. Kim as the next US ambassador to the Philippines. The former US ambassador to South Korea will be the first Asian-American ambassador to Manila.



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