MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he would deal with US President Donald Trump “in the most righteous way” when they meet next month to discuss regional security and Manila’s war on drugs.
Trump will travel to Asia on Nov. 3-14 amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
He will be in Manila on the last leg of his trip, which includes visits to Japan, South Korea, China, and Vietnam, to attend the Asean leaders’ summit.
Trump will meet with Duterte but will skip the larger meeting in Manila with heads of states and governments from China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
“It would be terrorism, cooperation between the two countries, the fight against drugs. I expect to be dealing with him around these topics,” Duterte said in a media briefing before leaving for Japan to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I would deal with President Trump in the most righteous way, welcome him as an important leader,” he said. “I would have to also listen to him, what he has to say.”
Duterte is known for his often profanity-laden tirades against the United States, chiding Washington for treating the Philippines “like a dog,” despite the two nations’ longstanding relationship.
The Philippines’ leader announced his “separation” from the United States during a visit to Beijing a year ago, declaring he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks.
Duterte was infuriated by expressions of concern by members of former President Barack Obama’s administration about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
But Trump, in a phone call to Duterte in May, praised the Philippine leader for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” despite human rights groups’ condemnation of Duterte’s drug crackdown, in which thousands of people have been killed.
Human rights, rule of law and due process are among “important developments” the two leaders would likely discuss during their bilateral talks, Sung Kim, US ambassador to Manila, told foreign correspondents last week.
Duterte is accused by international human rights groups of supporting a campaign of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, which his government denies.
He defended his 16-month-old campaign last week, telling Southeast Asian lawyers at a gathering in Manila that he had been “demonized” and denying allegations of state-sponsored killings of drug dealers and users.
Duterte, speaking in Davao City on Sunday night, said the situation in the Korean Peninsula would be the main agenda item in his talks with Trump.
“We are worried. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong,” he said. “A nuclear war is totally unacceptable to everybody.”
Duterte said it would be good if the United States, Japan and South Korea would sit down and talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and “tell him that nobody’s threatening him, that there would be no war, and that if you can just tone down or stand down, stop the threats, and that would be the same for America.”
Duterte previously described Kim as a “fool” and “son of a bitch” for “playing with dangerous toys.”
Duterte said the North Korea threats would also be discussed during his meeting with Abe, along with Tokyo’s assistance to rebuild the conflict-torn Marawi City in southern Philippines and for Manila’s infrastructure projects.