Trump meets with Philippine president, prepares to wrap up Asia trip

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November 12, 2017

MANILA – President Trump prepared to wrap up his 12-day trip to Asia on Monday by attending an economic conference in the Philippines and meeting with its controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte.

November 12, 2017

MANILA – President Trump prepared to wrap up his 12-day trip to Asia on Monday by attending an economic conference in the Philippines and meeting with its controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Donald Trump toasts with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Honeylet Avancena during the gala dinner marking ASEAN's 50th anniversary in Manila, Philippines on Nov. 12, 2017.

Hours before their scheduled bilateral meeting, Trump participated in a photo opportunity with Duterte as the Philippine leader welcome delegates to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

As an orchestra played a stately processional in a Manila auditorium, the ASEAN delegates lined up for a group handshake, with Trump standing next to Duterte. Trump appeared to have some difficulty figuring out how to do the crossed-arm maneuver. Soon, he caught on.

Human rights groups have assailed Duterte for his administration of the Philippines, including implementing a war on drugs that includes extrajudicial killings. Duterte has insulted the United States and bragged about killing people himself.

Duterte did not specifically discuss his government's efforts in a statement opening the ASEAN conference, but told those gathered that the "the menace of the illegal drug trade continues to threaten the fabric of our societies."

The host also talked about the Philippines' military actions against the Islamic State.

“I apologize for setting the tone of statement in such a manner,” he said, but “these threats know no boundaries.”

Then-president Barack Obama criticized Duterte over his drug war, and the two never met.

Trump has been more conciliatory toward the Philippine strongman. After an April phone call between Trump and Duterte, a White House statement said the Philippines is “fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”

President Trump reacts when he realizes he is incorrectly doing the "ASEAN-way handshake" with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, left, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, right, on stage during the opening ceremony at the ASEAN Summit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Nov. 13, 2017, in Manila. – Andrew Harnik, AP

In addition to the summit and the Duterte meeting, Trump is scheduled for bilateral meetings with other allies: Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Turnbull is the leader Trump clashed with during a phone call placed the first weekend of his administration back in January. Trump complained about a refugee agreement that the Obama administration had reached with Australia.

Monday was supposed to have been the final day of the Asia trip for which Trump left the White House on Nov. 3.

Trump  extended the trip by a day to attend the East Asia Summit in the Philippines on Tuesday. The administration had been criticized for planning to skip the event at a time when China is trying to increase its influence in the region.

The Asia trip, coming a year after his Election Day win, has taken Trump to Japan, South Korea and China. His focus has been on changing global trade rules and lobbying other countries to put more economic pressure on North Korea, seeking to force Kim Jong Un's government into giving up nuclear weapons.

Trump also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at an economic summit in Vietnam; that session sparked more arguments over a special counsel investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election.


Courtesy/Source: USA Today

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