Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2018
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Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

  • Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2
  • The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah

MANILA: Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected by the Philippines Foreign Affairs Department.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella told a press conference in Malacanang on Thursday that discussions on the embassy’s future are “definitely not on the agenda.”
Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2 at the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah. Both visits will be a first by a sitting Philippine president.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said earlier that the firebrand leader’s trip to Israel “could be controversial.”
But Abella, reiterating the Duterte government’s stance that the Philippines is “a friend to all and enemy to none,” expressed confidence that the president’s trip will not affect the country’s relations with nations that fail to recognize Israel as a state.
Nevertheless, the government is “aware of certain sensitivities,” he said.
“We have multilateral relations and, as we pointed out, we are friends to all and enemies to none. This should not serve as an obstacle with our bilateral relationships with each of these nations,” Abella said.
“There are certain sensitivities that we are aware of considering we have other partners in the Middle East area ... But I believe we have reached a stage of maturity in our relations that they understand ... that we’re in relationship with other nations such as Israel. So, it is important that we strike a balance,” he said.
“I believe the president has proven in many ways that it is possible to have this kind of independent foreign policy while satisfying the demands and needs of each particular relation,” Abella said.
In a recent interview, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said: “We live in a modern and mature world. Israel knows that we’re very close to many Arab countries, we’re very close to Malaysia and Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, which has an Islamic majority. Similarly, these countries also know that we are friends with Israel.
“Are there any repercussions by just visiting? I say we’re all mature enough to know that we can be friends even with countries that have issues with each other. What is important is that we strengthen our bilateral relationship with all the countries in the world that want closer relationship with us.”
Asked if the issue of moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem will be discussed during the president’s trip, Abella replied: “It’s not a topic of discussion.”
The visit will strengthen ties, and enhance economic cooperation and sharing of expertise, he said.
Duterte will hold separate meetings with Netanyahu and Israel President Reuven Rivlin.
Abella said agreements are expected to be signed between the Philippines and Israel on the employment of Filipino caregivers, scientific cooperation and investment.
The government is seeking improvements in deployment procedures and the elimination of excessive placement fees on Filipino workers bound for Israel, he said.
This year marks the 81st anniversary of the “open door” policy of the Philippines under then President Manuel Quezon, who offered shelter to more than a thousand Jews escaping the Holocaust in Europe, and the 61st anniversary of formal bilateral ties between the Philippines and Israel.
Duterte is expected to discuss broadening cooperation in key areas with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Abella said that the visits will be a huge leap in the Philippines bilateral partnerships.
“Strengthening ties with these nations will promote economic growth, create new employment opportunities and enhance security,” he said.
An estimated 28,300 Filipinos now work in Israel, with 40,000 employed in Jordan.


North Korea says it has tested new “high-tech tactical” weapon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects Samjiyon County, in this undated photo released on October 30, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). (REUTERS)
Updated 19 min 34 sec ago
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North Korea says it has tested new “high-tech tactical” weapon

  • The North has reportedly expressed anger in recent days at South Korea’s resumption of small-scale military drills with the United States

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed the successful test of a “newly developed high-tech tactical” weapon, the nation’s state media reported Friday, though it didn’t describe what sort of weapon it was.
It didn’t appear to be a nuclear or missile-related test, a string of which last year had many fearing war before the North turned to engagement and diplomacy early this year. Still, any mention of weapons testing could influence the direction of stalled diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang that’s meant to rid the North of its nuclear weapons.
The North said the test took place at the Academy of National Defense Science and that Kim couldn’t suppress his “passionate joy” at the success of the test.
The North has reportedly expressed anger in recent days at South Korea’s resumption of small-scale military drills with the United States. But Friday’s report didn’t appear to focus on North Korean claims of US and South Korean hostility, as it did when announcing previous weapons tests. Last year’s weapons tests, many experts believe, put the North on the brink of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can target anywhere in the mainland United States.
The North says this recent unspecified weapon has been under development for a long time and will help strengthen the country’s defense and the combat power of its army.
It was the first publicly known field inspection of a weapons test by Kim Jong Un since he observed the testing of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in November of last year, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
Diplomacy has stalled since a June summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore, with Washington pushing for more action on nuclear disarmament and the North insisting that the US first approve a peace declaration formally ending the Korean War.