U.S. President Barack Obama scrapped a meeting with his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, in Laos after Duterte unleashed an expletive-laden warning against the U.S. interfering in a war on drugs that’s led to the deaths of thousands of suspects.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said Obama won’t go through with a scheduled bilateral meeting with Duterte on Tuesday at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos. Instead, he’ll will meet with South Korean President Park Geun Hye, Price said in a statement.
While Price’s statement didn’t give a reason for the scheduling change, Duterte on Monday rejected U.S. criticism of the methods he’s using in his anti-drug campaign, saying it was an internal Philippine matter. He indicated that a meeting with Obama could prove a testy affair, saying if the U.S. president questioned him “I will curse you in that forum.”
“Who is he? I am the president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony,” Duterte said. “I only am answerable to the Filipino people who elected me as president.”
Asked at a briefing in Hangzhou, China, at the end of the Group of 20 summit about Duterte’s comments, Obama said “clearly he’s a colorful guy” and added that he was talking to his staff to see if “this is a time we can have some constructive, productive conversations.”
Duterte has been defiant toward international criticism of his anti-drug campaign, which has left about 2,400 dead in the two months since he took office. He’s lashed out at statements from the United Nations and the U.S., responding to comments from U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg by calling him a homosexual. That prompted Washington to summon officials from the Philippine Embassy to complain.
Duterte has defended his campaign as a matter of national security, calling illegal drugs a pandemic that must be wiped out by the Philippines at any cost.
“Nobody has a right to lecture me,” Duterte said. “God, do not do it. We will end up disrespecting each other if you do that to me.”
The war on drugs will continue and many will be killed “until the last pusher is out of business,” he said.
By: Norman P Aquino & Angela Greiling Keane