Duterte steals the show at sum­mit

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has ex­pressed re­gret over his re­marks re­fer­ring to US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, in a rare dis­play of con­tri­tion by a politi­cian whose wide arc of pro­fan­i­ties has un­abashedly tar­geted world fig­ures, in­clud­ing the pope and the UN chief.

In a state­ment read out by his spokesman, Duterte said that while his “strong com­ments” in re­sponse to cer­tain ques­tions by a reporter “elicited con­cern and dis­tress, we also re­gret it came across as a per­sonal at­tack on the US pres­i­dent”.

Duterte had made the in­tem­per­ate re­marks on Mon­day be­fore fly­ing to Laos, where he is at­tend­ing a re­gional sum­mit. He had been sched­uled to meet Obama sep­a­rately, but Obama in­di­cated he had sec­ond thoughts.

Yes­ter­day Duterte said both sides mu­tu­ally agreed to post­pone the meet­ing.

Even though Duterte’s lat­est com­ment does not amount to an apol­ogy, the ex­pres­sion of re­gret is un­usual for the tough-talk­ing for­mer mayor, who is un­apolo­getic about his man­ner of speech and lib­er­ally pep­pers his ca­sual state­ments with pro­fan­i­ties. But per­haps Duterte’s aides re­alised it would be un­wise to take on the most pow­er­ful of­fi­cial in the world, and there would be a price to pay for in­sult­ing the Pres­i­dent of the United States. The US is one of the Philip­pines’ largest trad­ing part­ners and a key se­cu­rity ally in its fight against ter­ror­ism in the coun­try’s south. Manila also needs Wash­ing­ton’s help in deal­ing with a more as­sertive China in the dis­puted South China Sea. Yes­ter­day, South­east Asian lead­ers met to dis­cuss is­sues rang­ing from ter­ror­ism to South China Sea. The 10-na­tion ASEAN com­prises Brunei, Cam­bo­dia, In­done­sia, Laos, Malaysia, Myan­mar, Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land and Viet­nam. The sum­mit will be fol­lowed by a se­ries of other meet­ings to­day and a sum­mit to­mor­row be­tween lead­ers from ASEAN and other coun­tries, in­clud­ing the US, China, Rus­sia and In­dia.

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