New U.S. ambassador to PH aims to 'strengthen' ties

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The new U.S. ambassador to the Philippines says he looks forward to working with the Philippine government "to strengthen" the "very important partnership" between the two countries.

U.S. Ambassador-Designate to the Philippines Sung Kim arrived in Manila past 10 p.m. Thursday, and told reporters he was "thrilled" to be able to contribute to one of his country's "most important" and "most special" partnership.

"But for me, the most meaningful or most fundamental is the deep bond and the extraordinary warmth between the peoples of the two countries," he added.

According to his figures, there are about 4 million Filipino-Americans residing in the U.S., and 250,000 Americans living and working in the Philippines.

Despite the long flight from Washington D.C. to Manila, Kim pointed out he "didn't get any sleep" on the plane because of his excitement. "I have, for a long time, for many years, have wanted to serve in Manila."

Kim was one of seven individuals nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to key administration posts in May. He was sworn in by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on November 3.

In his acceptance speech, Kim also called the Philippines the U.S.' "oldest ally in Asia" and reiterated continued friendship.

He listed the U.S. as one of the Philippines' "top trading partners" and reaffirmed a "common history of shared sacrifice, values, and interests" as well as "an ironclad mutual defense treaty."

Fresh start?

Kim will drop the "Designate" label after he presents his credentials to, and is received by President Rodrigo Duterte. The President has been vocal about his misgivings on relations with the U.S.

The President also insulted Kim's predecessor, Philip Goldberg, during a televised speech in Cebu City earlier this year.

"Kaya nga sabi ko noong si (U.S. Secretary of State John) Kerry, kasama kami ni(incoming Philippine National Defense) Secretary, si Delfin (Lorenzana), kausap namin si Kerry. Okay naman siya kasi, nag-away kami ng ambassador niya (Philip Goldberg). Iyong ambassador niyang bakla, p*****i**, buwisit ako diyan.  Nakikisali doon sa election, giving [a] statement. You're not supposed to do that."

[Translation:I was with (incoming Philippine National Defense Secretary) Delfin (Lorenzana). We talked to (U.S. Secretary of State) John Kerry, he was actually okay because I had a fight with his ambassador. I told him: your ambassador is a gay, son of a b**** I was pissed at him, for interfering in the elections, giving statements here and there. He wasn't supposed to do that.]

Duterte said Goldberg should not have "interfered" during the last presidential election, when the then ambassador reacted to Duterte's comments on the rape of an Australian missionary.

Foreign service career

Kim is a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor. He is also a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State.

His prior experience includes serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2011 to 2014. He was also the special representative for North Korea policy and the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

A graduate of University of Pennsylvania, Kim earned a juris doctor degree from Loyola University Law School in Los Angeles. He also has a master of laws degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

CNN Philippines' JC Gotinga contributed to this report.