The White House burned a Philippine official who tried to clean up controversial remarks about the US

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte makes a speech during the Philippines – China Trade and Investment Forum in Beijing
Thomson Reuters

The White House burned a Phillipine official who attempted to walk back some controversial remarks the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte made in China.

At an event in Beijing Thursday night, Duterte suggested a form of “separation” from the US – a statement that some interpreted as his intention to sever ties with the West.

Philippine Trade Minister Ramon Lopez attempted to clarify those statements, saying Duterte intends to “[maintain] the relationship with the West. What we are saying is that there will be less dependence just on one side of the world,” according to CNN.

On Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest criticized Duterte’s words, saying they could potentially strain relations between the US and the Philippines and create “unnecessary uncertainty.”

Earnest also burned Lopez, called him the “Filipino Mike Pence” – likening him to the Republican vice presidential nominee who is often tasked with softening Donald Trump’s brusque campaign rhetoric.

At a press conference on Friday, Duterte himself said his earlier comments simply amounted to a disagreement on foreign policy with the US.

“You say severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations. I cannot do that. I said separation – what I was really saying was separation of a foreign policy.”

This is not the first time Duterte has ruffled the US’ feathers.

In September, President Barack Obama canceled a trip to the Philippines after Duterte called him a “son of a bitch” and told him to “go to hell.”