Trump: ‘Great relationship’ with Duterte in Philippines
MANILA — President Donald Trump said on Monday that he had a “great relationship” with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, making little mention of human rights at his first face-to-face meeting with an authoritarian leader accused of carrying out a campaign of extrajudicial killings in his nation’s war on drugs.
In a stark break from past practice by American presidents, who have pressed foreign leaders publicly and privately about allegations of human rights abuses, Trump instead pursued his own transactional style of diplomacy, dwelling mostly on areas of common ground during his meeting with Duterte. On the sideline of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit meeting, Trump focused on combating the Islamic State and illegal drugs as well as on trade issues, the White House said.
“Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.
But Duterte’s spokesman denied that the subject of rights was ever broached, even as the Philippine president spoke about the “drug menace” in his country.
“The issue of human rights did not arise; it was not brought up,” Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, said.
The meeting also highlighted the potential conflicts of interest inherent in Trump’s position as both a president and a global real estate developer. Among those at the private session was Jose E.B. Antonio, a developer who is Trump’s partner on a $150-million, 57-story luxury tower in Manila’s financial district and also serves as Duterte’s trade envoy to the United States.
The two presidents declined to answer questions during brief remarks to reporters at the start of the meeting.
“We’ve had a great relationship,” Trump said, heaping praise on Duterte’s stewardship of the summit, including an elaborate gala dinner on Sunday where they were seen chatting animatedly and a set of cultural performances on Monday. “This has been very successful.”