US President Donald Trump on Monday gave his approval to the controversial war on drugs of his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, according to the Philippine presidency, in the first and expected meeting between two of the most controversial leaders.
Duterte, an admirer of Trump, took advantage of the meeting in Manila to present the achievements of his initiative, which has caused more than 7,000 deaths, according to some data, and has reduced crime in the Philippines by almost half in less than a year and a half .
The US president responded to the Filipino’s “showing approval” with ” body language,” Duterte spokesman Harry Roque told CTN News after a closed-door meeting between the two leaders.
The bilateral meeting took place in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), where presidents and prime ministers from around the world participate and which closes tomorrow.
The first meeting between Trump and Duterte, known for its explosive and unpredictable nature, had generated great expectations, as several organizations demanded that the US leader recriminate the Filipino human rights violations of the “war on drugs.”
The US president, who ignored a question from journalists about the anti-drug campaign, limited himself to declaring that he maintains with his Filipino colleague “an excellent relationship.”
He also exchanged jokes and laughs with his Filipino counterpart, a reflection of the good harmony between the two presidents, which contrasts with the antagonism between Duterte and Barack Obama, the previous leader of the White House.
Obama was described as a “son of a bitch” by the Filipino leader for criticizing the “war on drugs.”
The presidents of the USA and the Philippines also discussed options for the fight against Islamic State (IS) terrorism as a priority and Duterte thanked Trump for his assistance in the jihadist conflict in the southern city of Marawi recently which ended with 1,100 dead.
Foreign jihadists occupied Marawi partially between last May 23 and October 23.
On the sidelines of this bilateral meeting, the US president held a three-way meeting with Australian Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Japans Shinzo Abe, as well as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and representatives of the ASEAN bloc.
Trump, who will complete tomorrow in the Philippines an Asian tour that has taken him to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam, making forward progress in trade agreements.
Specifically, he boasted of achieved US sales of 300,000 million dollars and promised to reduce “very fast and in a very substantial way” the trade deficit that the world’s leading economy suffers with the countries of East Asia.
In his meetings with leaders of Asia and the Pacific, Trump is also giving priority to security, at a time of high tension by North Korea’s missile tests and its advances in the nuclear weapons program.
The Manila Summit, which will conclude tomorrow and to which the parallel East Asia Forum is added, includes multiple bilateral and multilateral meetings between the US, China, South Korea, Japan, India, the European Union (EU), Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the UN.
Trump is expected to try to close ranks among his Asian partners against the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un in the East Asia Forum.
Some analysts believe that the US president could urge the countries of the region, which maintain strong trade ties with China, to put pressure on Beijing to further isolate North Korea with the aim of forcing it to abandon its weapons program.