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Du30 rues ‘whore’ dig at Obama

VIENTIANE—United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday called off his scheduled meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit here, even as tensions continue to rise over China’s growing territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.

Duterte expressed regret Tuesday after his obscenity-laden rant against the man whom he called “son of a whore”  and the “most powerful man in the world,” but senior Palace officials once again insisted that the President was once “misinterpreted.” 

“While the immediate cause [of the meeting’s cancellation] was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US president,” a statement released by Duterte said.

The 71-year-old former prosecutor was referring to his remarks on Monday, when he warned he would not be lectured by Obama over concerns about a brutal war on the illegal drug trade that has claimed more than 2,400 lives.

“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte told reporters when asked about his message for Obama.

On the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Hangzhou, China, on Monday, Obama suggested the meeting with Duterte might not push through.

REGRET AFTER CURSE.  President Rodrigo Duterte expresses regret after his obscenity-laden rant against US President Barack Obama, prompting the White House to cancel planned bilateral talks between the two leaders on the sidelines of the 28th and 29th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Vientiane, Laos on Tuesday. AFP
By early Tuesday morning, Obama’s aides announced that the meeting with Duterte was canceled.

“President Obama will not be holding a bilateral meeting with President Duterte of the Philippines this afternoon,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in Washington.

In a question-and-answer session late Monday night, Duterte said that he cannot quarrel with the “most powerful man in the planet,” referring to Obama, but said Obama’s staff in the State Department kept mouthing off about his human rights record.

Then, in response to a question on extrajudicial killings, Duterte lost his temper.

“You know, Philippines is an independent country. It is not a vassal state of anybody so you have to be very careful,” he said.

Duterte had earlier warned that “plenty [more people] will be killed” before the campaign against illegal drugs ends, and said he would curse the US President if he raises the topic of extrajudicial killings during their meeting.

He then attacked the United States own record of extrajudicial killings, during its “pacification” campaign in the Philippines in the early 1900s.

The spectacular fallout between the US and the Philippines overshadowed the opening of the yearly summit of the 10-member Asean.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Tuesday said the President apologizes for his attack on Obama.

“President Duterte explained that the press reports that Obama would ‘lecture’ him on extrajudicial killings led to his strong comments, which in turn elicited concern. He regrets that his remarks to the press have caused much controversy,” the Malacañang statement read.

“The President looks forward to ironing out our differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions, and working in mutually responsible ways for both countries.”

This is not the first time that Duterte made critical responses against the country’s long-term strategic ally.

Previously, he branded US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg as a “son of a whore,” a term he commonly uses, and criticized the US over its own track record of police killings against African Americans.

Duterte’s about-face on Tuesday said both sides would hold face-to-face talks “at a later date.”

“Our primary intention is to chart an independent foreign policy while promoting closer ties with all nations especially the US with which we have a longstanding partnership,” Duterte’s statement said.

The Foreign Affairs Department added Duterte had “a deep regard and affinity for President Obama and for the enduring partnership between our nations.”

Senior Palace officials played down the impact of Duterte’s latest outburst on the future of US-Philippine relations.

“This won’t be a major setback because this never destroyed the relations between the two countries in terms of our agreements,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters.

“That’s the style of the President, there’s nothing wrong with that. We should by now be used to his hyperbole. It’s his style,” he added.

Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said that even Obama’s cancellation of their meeting did not affect Duterte’s overall mood, which he described as “very upbeat.”

Dureza said they needed to issue a statement just to clear the air.

During his Monday outburst he said the bloodbath would continue.

“More people will be killed, plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets. Until the [last] drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue and I will continue,” he said.

He also added he would not take orders from the United States, a former colonial ruler of the Philippines, and did not care about how he was perceived.

“I don’t give a shit about anybody observing my behavior,” he said.

The setback in relations between the United States and the Philippines comes at a crucial time in the region, with China seeking to cement control over the contested South China Sea.

Obama’s time in Laos will be the final trip to Asia of his eight-year presidency, during which he has sought to refocus American military, political and economic resources on the region.

Duterte, meanwhile, makes his first appearance before the international stage amid criticisms of the country’s human rights record.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims to the strategically vital waters, but have watched China expand its presence by building artificial islands in key locations.

An international tribunal ruled in July that China’s claims to the waters—through which $5 trillion in global shipping trade passes—had no legal basis.

The verdict was widely seen as a sweeping victory for the Philippines, which filed the suit under the previous administration of Benigno Aquino, but China has vowed to ignore the ruling.

Duterte has sought to heal relations with China, rather than inflame them by pressing the tribunal’s ruling.

The South China Sea issue is expected to once again be discussed at the three days of meetings hosted by Asean, which will be attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The gathering will see the 10 Asean members meet by themselves, then with leaders from the US, China, Japan, South Korea and China.

Other leaders to come for an East Asia summit on Thursday include from Australia, India and New Zealand. 

Obama, on his final visit to Asia as US president, insisted Tuesday renewed American engagement with the region would endure after he left the White House.

“America’s interest in the Asia-Pacific is not new. It’s not a passing fad. It reflects fundamental national interests,” he said in a speech in the Lao capital of Vientiane.

The US president is making his 11th and last trip to the Asia-Pacific, seeking to cement a “pivot” to the region that has been a hallmark of his eight-year administration.

During his speech in Laos, Obama took time to summarize that policy, which has often been distracted by protracted violence and instability in the Middle East. 

“As president, a key priority of my foreign policy has been to deepen our engagement with the nations and peoples of the Asia-Pacific,” he told delegates, adding that he remained confident the new engagement would last.

Obama trumpeted increased military cooperation with countries such as the Philippines, Singapore and India, as well as a push for greater trade with the region, and vowed this would continue.

“We are here to stay. In good times and bad, you can count on the United States of America,” Obama said.

Obama also addressed concerns in China, which has watched the US pivot with suspicion while pursuing its own increasingly muscular foreign policy in the region.

“The United States and China are engaged across more areas than ever before,” Obama told delegates.

He added that Washington “welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable and prosperous and a responsible player in global affairs because we believe that will benefit all of us.”

But he also reiterated his steadfast support for access to disputed waters in the region which China claims as its own. 

“Across the region, including in the East and South China Seas, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and support the right of all countries to do the same,” he said. With AFP

Topics: President Rody Duterte , US President Barack Obama , rues whore , Association of Southeast Asian Nations , summit , PH , US
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