The United States has an "ironclad" alliance with the Philippines, U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on Thursday, countering statements by the southeast Asian nation's president that have thrown bilateral relations into deepening uncertainty.
Carter spoke a day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has branded President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch," declared upcoming U.S.-Philipppines military exercises "the last" and ruled out any joint navy patrols.
"As it has been for decades, our alliance with the Philippines is ironclad," said Carter, speaking to American sailors aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson at its home port in San Diego.
Through a "landmark" recent agreement, "the United States is supporting the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces," he said.
Duterte has engaged in near-daily outbursts against the United States for the last month, raising questions about whether Manila's next moves could complicate regional diplomacy.
Among other measures, the firebrand leader has said he will order the pullout of the remaining U.S. special forces stationed in the Philippines' restive south.