Tough-guy talk caps Trump's Asia swing

World | Nov 14, 2017
His lengthy Asia trip nearly over and in the Philippine capital, US President Donald Trump once more pushed for equitable trade deals and opted to prioritize strategic interests over human rights, declining to shine a spotlight on the anti-drug war waged by his Philippine host.

Instead, Trump repeatedly praised President Rodrigo Duterte, pointedly calling him by his first name, sharing a joke about the media and even being nice about Manila's weather. What he did not do was what predecessors had done: highlight rights abuses.

Duterte has overseen a bloody drug war with thousands of extrajudicial killings and has boasted about killing people with his own hands. But Trump said he and Duterte "had a great relationship," and he avoided questions from media about raising rights issues.

A White House spokeswoman said later the two discussed the Islamic State, illegal drugs and trade in their 40-minute meeting. Human rights came up "briefly" in the context of the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs.

That did not fit precisely with the Philippines' version of the meeting.

A spokesman for Duterte said "there was no mention of human rights. There was no mention of extra-legal killings. There was only a rather lengthy discussion of the Philippine war on drugs, with President Duterte doing most of the explaining."

Also on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, which included so-called dialogue partners, Trump looked to strengthen ties with allies, aimed to strike bilateral rather than multinational trade agreements, and sought to increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

He met with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and touted their nations' "deeper and more comprehensive" ties in bidding to strengthen a relationship that is vital to the US vision of an Indo-Pacific region that can resist China's influence.

He met jointly with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull - with whom he had cross words on the phone a while back - and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hosted Trump in Tokyo at the start of his trip. Trump also raved about accomplishments on his five-nation journey, including progress trade and putting blocks on North Korea.


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