Trump buddies up to Duterte
But U.S. president does not highlight human rights issue.
Winding down his visit to Asia, 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 compli- mented Manila’s weather. What he did not do Monday was what many of his predecessors made a point of doing while abroad: pub- licly 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 Fil- ipino leader during a private meeting on the side- lines of a summit of South- east 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.”
Trump said the Asia trip had been “very fruitful” for the United States.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (from left), Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Donald Trump, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend the ASEANU.S. Summit in Manila on Monday.