President Obama Meets Briefly with Philippines Leader

September 07, 2016 U.S. President Barack Obama and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte spoke briefly on Wednesday before the ASEAN Summit gala dinner. The new Philippines President’s profane outburst prompted the White House to cancel a formal meeting earlier this week. Despite earlier reports by Philippines representatives that President Duterte would be seated next to U.S. President Obama and U.N. Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon during ASEAN Summit gala dinner, the leaders were seated far apart.

The Associated Press reports that President Obama exchanged pleasantries with Duterte before entering the dinner venue separately, and the two leaders did not interact with each other during the dinner that lasted an hour and 20 minutes. Philippine officials later told the Associated Press that President Obama and President Duterte did speak informally at the event.

President Obama canceled a formal meeting with the Philippine leader after he called him a “son of a whore” and threatened to repeat it in person, if he raised the issue of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. The new Philippines president later said he regretted the comments, which he described as an overreaction to news media reports he read about Obama’s plans to press him on his tactics for combating drug trafficking. Last month, President Duterte threatened to pull the Philippines out of the United Nations after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s criticism of the country’s war on drugs. Duterte later said he was only joking, but earlier this week he said he would not meet with the U.N. secretary general at the ASEAN summit as he had “no time.”

The new Philippines president’s foul language introduces an unpredictable element to an already tense region. The United States and its allies in the region are concerned about not only what the volatile new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte is saying, but also what he’s thinking.

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