President Donald Trump has revealed he has a “great relationship” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, after a highly anticipated meeting in the country’s capital Manila.
It was unclear whether President Trump raised human rights violations in the Philippines, despite calls for him to do so.
Barack Obama’s administration had spoken out against Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed almost 4,000 people.
President Trump is almost at the end of an extensive Asia tour.
The first meeting between Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte, which took place at the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, was closely watched as both are known for striking a controversially outspoken and direct tone.
After the private meeting, President Trump did not respond to questions about whether he had raised the subject of human rights while a spokesman for President Duterte said the topic had not been discussed.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said the topic was mentioned briefly in their private meeting, in the context of the war on drugs, but did not give further details.
On November 10, President Duterte said he stabbed a person to death when he was a teenager. His spokesman later said the remark had been “in jest”.
Since coming into office in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has presided over a massive crackdown on crime in the Philippines, which critics allege undermines fundamental human rights.
The Filipino president has encouraged extrajudicial killings of those involved in the drug trade, and said he would “be happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts in the country.
Police say they have killed almost 4,000 people in anti-drug operations since 2016. More than 2,000 others have been killed in connection with drug-related crimes.
President Trump has previously praised Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, reportedly telling him: “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing.”
A Philippine government transcript of the April 29 phone call was later leaked to US media.
President Trump and other leaders attending the ASEAN event had already met on Sunday evening at a gala in Manila ahead of the summit.
During the evening, Rodrigo Duterte took to the stage to sing a Filipino hit love song, afterwards saying it had been “on the orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States”.
Demonstrators took to the streets in Manila on November 12 and 13, protesting against Donald Trump’s visit and carrying banners like “Trump Go Home” and “Ban Trump #1 terrorist”.
Riot police used water cannon and sonic alarms to repel the protesters.
Donald Trump’s visit to the Philippines wraps up the president’s five-country trip to Asia which also had him visit Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.
In a defiant address at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Vietnam, President Donald Trump has said the US will no longer tolerate “chronic trade abuses”.
The president said he would always put US interests first and APEC nations should “abide by fair reciprocal trade”.
In stark contrast, China’s Xi Jinping said globalization was irreversible and voiced support for multilateralism.
Donald Trump has visited China and Japan as part of his five-nation Asia tour.
APEC brings together 21 economies from the Pacific region – the equivalent of about 60% of the world’s GDP.
Since taking office, President Trump has pursued his “America First” agenda and pulled the US out of the regional Trans-Pacific Partnership – a major trade deal with 12 APEC nations – arguing it would hurt US economic interests.
In a speech in the Vietnamese port city of Da Nang on November 10, President Trump railed against the World Trade Organization, which sets global trade laws, and said it “cannot function properly” if all members do not respect the rules.
Donald Trump complained about trade imbalances, saying the US had lowered market barriers and ended tariffs while other countries had not reciprocated.
“Such practices hurt many people in our country,” the president said, adding that free trade had cost millions of American jobs.
However, President Trump did not lay the blame on APEC countries, and instead accused earlier US administrations of not acting earlier to reverse the trend.
He said America would make bilateral agreements with “any Indo-Pacific partner here who abides by fair reciprocal trade”, but only “on a basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit”.
President Trump has repeatedly referred to the region as “Indo-Pacific”, a term used to define America’s new geopolitical view of Asia.
He had travelled to Da Nang from Beijing, where he had also discussed America’s huge trade imbalance with China.
After attending the APEC summit, President Trump will pay a state visit to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.
The president will end his 12-day Asian tour in the Philippines on November 13.
Xi Jinping recently consolidated his power at a Chinese Communist Party congress, a move analysts say will make him less likely to reach compromise with President Trump.
Despite his congratulations, there are tensions between the two men, with President Trump having attacked China over its allegedly unfair trade practices.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania are scheduled to visit the Forbidden City, for centuries the home of China’s emperors, followed by afternoon tea.
The president’s arrival came just hours after his speech in the South Korean capital Seoul, in which he described North Korea as “a hell that no person deserves”.
North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has sparked international alarm, with Pyongyang carrying out its biggest nuclear test yet in September. In typically stark language, Donald Trump warned North Korea: “Do not underestimate us. Do not try us.”
However, there were hints though he might be open to a deal, telling North Korea “we will offer you a path for a better future”.
Singling out Russia and China, President Trump urged “all responsible nations” to isolate North Korea, and fully implement UN sanctions, downgrade diplomatic ties and sever trade and technology ties.
“You cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept,” he said.
China is North Korea’s only major ally, but says it is committed to the UN sanctions and argues its leverage is overestimated.