US Ambassador-designate Sung Kim arrived in Manila on Thursday, raring to improve ties between the Philippines and the United States that have been frayed under the Duterte administration.
The Korean-American diplomat said he couldn’t sleep during the long flight from Washington because of his excitement to take over the Manila post.
“I’m very eager to get started and very much looking forward to meeting as many Filipinos as possible and visiting many beautiful places in the Philippines,” said Kim, who arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 on Korean Airlines Flight EK623 at 10:15 p.m. on Thursday.
Kim did not make any reference to the spat that stemmed from President Barack Obama and the US State department’s criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs. He also did not take questions from reporters.
Ties could improve however, as Duterte had said he did not want to “quarrel” with US President-elect Donald Trump. Duterte was scheduled to phone Trump Friday night to congratulate the latter for winning the US presidential election.
Duterte also had a row with Kim’s predecessor, Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who hit the former Davao City
mayor during the presidential campaign for a now-infamous “rape joke.”
Kim was sworn in as the new US envoy to Manila on November 3. He was nominated by Obama on May 19 and confirmed by the US Senate on September 28.
“There are many important dimensions to [the Philippines-US]relationship. For me, the most meaningful, the most fundamental is the deep bond and the extraordinary bond between the peoples of the two countries. I think there is a great deal of respect, affection and admiration between Americans and the Filipinos,” Kim said in his arrival speech.
There are four million Filipino-Americans in the US and 250,000 Americans living and working in the Philippines.
Kim, a North Korea expert, will drop the “designate” label after he presents his credentials to Duterte.
“Wish me luck. I’m very confident that our relationship will continue to grow and deepen in the years to come,” Kim said.
On Saturday, Kim will deliver a speech at the gathering of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders’ Initiative in Manila.