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Duterte, Obama Finally Meet

Photo from freshnewsasia.com

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President Barack Obama met on Wednesday (September 7).

The brief meeting happened in Laos where the two leaders are attending a summit of Asian leaders.

The meeting came days after Duterte branded Obama as a “son of a whore” following assertions from the White House that Obama will raise the issue of the ongoing deadly war against drugs in the Philippines.

Obama and Duterte shook hands and had a brief chat, easing a standoff.

The presidents of the two longtime allies were due to hold talks on September 6, but the White House cancelled the meeting after Duterte’s insult.

“I’m very happy that it happened,” Philippine foreign affairs secretary minister Perfecto Yasay said of their short meeting. “It all springs from the fact that the relationship between the Philippines and the United States is firm, very strong.”

Duterte had his outburst on September 5 when he was defending his war on drugs that has killed at least 2,400 Filipinos.

Duterte later expressed regret for offending Obama.

The meeting took place for a couple of minutes as they waited to take their seats at a gala dinner ahead of the East Asia Summit on September 8.

 

Alan Cayetano, who was Duterte’s vice-presidential running mate in this year’s election, described the atmosphere as “warm and cordial”, while a White House official said “the exchange consisted of pleasantries between the two”.

Tensions between the United States and the Philippines, its former colony, are unusual at high-level meetings. The two countries are treaty allies and Washington has strongly backed Manila’s calls for China to abide by a recent ruling over the South China Sea, which the Philippines won.

China is among the countries taking part in September 8 summit, which includes the 10 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, and Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Russia and the United States

Philippines ambassador to Laos, Marciano Paynor, said the tiff with Obama was part of a learning curve for Duterte, who needed a chance to make the transition from being a city mayor to a head of state.

“He has to experience it,” he said. “If you don’t experience it, you don’t know how it’s done, you’ll be grappling.”