Trump: ‘Great re­la­tion­ship’ with Duterte in Philip­pines

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Julie Hirschfeld Davis

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.”

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