Duterte, Trump meet at APEC sidelines

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and United States President Donald Trump met for the first time on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam on Saturday.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go in a text message said Duterte and Trump had a brief conversation, telling each other, “See you tomorrow.”

The US president was likely referring to his visit to Manila starting Sunday, November 12, to attend the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.

Speaking to reporters in Vietnam on Saturday, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s meeting with Trump was “short” but it was “warm and cordial.”

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“It was a brief meeting… Albeit short, it was very warm and cordial and President Trump reportedly told President Duterte that he will see him tomorrow. That’s because the US president is flying to the Philippines for the Asean Summit tomorrow,” Roque said in a press conference.

“There’s a photo posted by the Special Assistant to the President Bong Go. And it shows that I think, the two leaders were genuinely pleased to have finally met each other in person,” he added.

Duterte and Trump’s bilateral dialogue did not push through in Vietnam. But the two leaders will have their first official meeting on Monday at the sidelines of the summit.

Prior to their first meeting, Trump and Duterte had talked on the phone at least two times, discussing issues of common concern such as the crisis in the Korean Peninsula.

Trump also expressed support for Duterte’s war on drugs, which has been heavily criticized here and abroad for the deaths of thousands of alleged drug suspects.

Roque reiterated that Duterte “will refuse to pursue any talks relating to a domestic issue such as on his war on drugs.”

“Having said that, I’m confident that President Trump, having endorsed Duterte’s war on drugs, will also see no necessity in bringing it up,” he said.

The Palace official said Duterte has had the opportunity to clarify his position on the alleged killings in the Philippines.

“The position is: The use of force by state agents, of course, is not absolutely prohibited. It can be utilized in valid instances of the exercise of police power. But that the use of force, in order to be legal, there must be necessity and proportionality and that is the latest pronouncement of the President in this regard,” Roque said.

“So that is the latest statement of the President on the matter. He wants to emphasize that as a public prosecutor for 10 years, it is not his intention to violate and commit murders—to violate human rights and to commit murders,” he added.

On October 30, Duterte said he would raise the issue on the escalating tension between the US and North Korea.

On Wednesday, the President said he would bring up the West Philippine Sea disputes to allow Trump, who also met Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Apec event, to have a “balance answer” with regard to the maritime row.

Duterte also said he would tell Trump to “lay off” when it comes to the issue of the supposed human rights violation associated with the former’s deadly war on illegal drugs that killed thousands of alleged drug suspects.

The President is expected to be back in Manila before 11 p.m. Saturday.

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