Trump and Duterte bond at Asia sum­mit; U.S. says hu­man rights men­tioned briefly

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said on Mon­day he had a “great re­la­tion­ship” with his Philip­pine coun­ter­part, Ro­drigo Duterte, while a White House of­fi­cial said hu­man rights got only a brief men­tion when the two met on the side­lines of an Asian sum­mit.

A spokesman for Duterte said there was no men­tion at all of hu­man rights or ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings dur­ing their con­ver­sa­tion.

The meet­ing be­tween the two pres­i­dents was one of the most an­tic­i­pated at the sum­mit of East and South­east Asian lead­ers in Manila, with hu­man rights groups press­ing Trump to take a tough line on Duterte over his bloody war on drugs, in which thou­sands of peo­ple have been killed.

“The con­ver­sa­tion fo­cused on ISIS (Is­lamic State in Iraq and the Le­vant/ISIL/Daesh), il­le­gal drugs, and trade,” said White House spokes­woman Sarah San­ders. “Hu­man rights briefly came up in the con­text of the Philip­pines’ fight against il­le­gal drugs.”

Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, told a news con­fer­ence that the Philip­pine pres­i­dent had ex­plained his anti-drugs pol­icy at length to Trump, who “seemed to be ap­pre­cia­tive of his ef­forts”.

“There was no men­tion of hu­man rights, no men­tion of ex­tra-le­gal killings,” he said. More than 3,900 peo­ple have been killed in a war on drugs that Duterte de­clared when he took of­fice last year. His govern­ment says the po­lice act in self-de­fense, but crit­ics say ex­e­cu­tions are tak­ing place with no ac­count­abil­ity.

“We are your ally. We are an im­por­tant ally,” Duterte told Trump at the be­gin­ning of their talks, ac­cord­ing to re­porters al­lowed in to the meet­ing room.

Trump replied: “We’ve had a great re­la­tion­ship. This has been very suc­cess­ful. And the ASEAN (As­so­ci­a­tion of South East Asian Na­tions) con­fer­ence has been han­dled beau­ti­fully by the pres­i­dent in the Philip­pines.” Duterte, who has been called the “Trump of the East” for his brash style and provoca­tive lan­guage, said last week he would tell the U.S. pres­i­dent to “lay off” if he were to raise accusations of rights vi­o­la­tions.

Love song

Trump was crit­i­cized in May for prais­ing Duterte dur­ing a phone call for the “great job” he was do­ing to counter il­le­gal nar­cotics.

The United States and the Philip­pines, a for­mer U.S. colony, have been strate­gic al­lies since World War Two. But their re­la­tions have been strained by anti-U.S. out­bursts from Duterte and his en­thu­si­asm for bet­ter ties with Rus­sia and China.

How­ever, Duterte clearly ap­pears to be get­ting on bet­ter with Trump than he did with his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama.

Trump and Duterte seem to have warmed to each other af­ter meet­ing for the first time on Satur­day at an Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) group meet­ing in Viet­nam.

On Sun­day, Duterte crooned hit Fil­ipino love song “Ikaw” (You) at a gala din­ner for sum­mit lead­ers in Manila, say­ing it was on “the or­ders” of Trump.

One of the song’s verses, trans­lated from Fil­ipino, be­gins: “You are the light in my world, a half of this heart of mine”.

“Ladies and gen­tle­men, I sang un­in­vited, upon the or­ders of the com­man­der-in-chief of the United States,” Duterte said later, ac­cord­ing to the ABS-CBN news chan­nel.

Roque de­scribed the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Trump and Duterte as “warm, friendly and can­did”.

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