Trump bud­dies up to Duterte

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - WORLD -

Wind­ing down his visit to Asia, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­peat­edly praised Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, called him by his first name, shared a joke with him about the me­dia and even com­pli­mented Manila’s weather. What he did not do Mon­day was what many of his pre­de­ces­sors made a point of do­ing while abroad: pub­licly high­light hu­man rights abuses.

Duterte has over­seen a bloody drug war that has fea­tured ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings. But dur­ing brief re­marks to re­porters, Trump said he and Duterte have “had a great re­la­tion­ship,” and he avoided ques­tions about whether he’d raise hu­man rights con­cerns with the Filipino leader dur­ing a pri­vate meet­ing on the side­lines of a sum­mit of South­east Asian lead­ers.

The White House later said the two lead­ers dis­cussed the Is­lamic State group, il­le­gal drugs and trade dur­ing the 40-minute meet­ing. Press Sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said hu­man rights came up “briefly” in the con­text of the Philip­pines’ fight against il­le­gal drugs, but she did not say if Trump was crit­i­cal of Duterte’s pro­gram.

That ap­peared to con­flict with the Filipino ver­sion of the meet­ing. Harry Roque, a spokesman for Duterte, said: “There was no men­tion of hu­man rights. There was no men­tion of ex­trale­gal killings. There was only a rather lengthy dis­cus­sion of the Philip­pine war on drugs with Pres­i­dent Duterte do­ing most of the ex­plain­ing.”

De­spite all that, they later is­sued a joint state­ment say­ing that “the two sides un­der­scored that hu­man rights and the dig­nity of hu­man life are es­sen­tial, and agreed to con­tinue main­stream­ing the hu­man rights agenda in their na­tional pro­grams.”

Duterte’s war on drugs has alarmed hu­man rights ad­vo­cates around the world who say it has al­lowed po­lice of­fi­cers and vig­i­lantes to ig­nore due process and to take jus­tice into their own hands. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that well over 3,000 peo­ple, mostly drug users and deal­ers, have died in the on­go­ing crack­down. Hu­man rights groups be­lieve the vic­tim to­tal is far higher, per­haps closer to 9,000.

In Manila for the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions con­fer­ence, Trump looked to strengthen ties with Pa­cific Rim al­lies, aim­ing to strike one-on-one trade deals rather than multi­na­tional trade agree­ments, and in­crease pres­sure on North Korea to aban­don its nu­clear pro­gram.

He met with In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and high­lighted their two na­tions’ “deeper and more com­pre­hen­sive” ties, look­ing to strengthen a re­la­tion­ship that is vi­tal to the U.S. vi­sion of an Indo-pa­cific re­gion that at­tempts to de-em­pha­size China’s in­flu­ence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.