US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP visits Manila and Asia next week. While in Manila, Trump will hold bilateral talks with President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit.
WASHINGTON/MANILA – Senior White House officials have confirmed US President Donald Trump’s scheduled bilateral meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during the American leader’s visit to the country in November.
The senior White House official said the bilateral meeting will take place on November 13.
“President Trump is very much looking forward to seeing President Duterte to extend his congratulations on the Philippines’ hosting these summits and also just to reaffirm the long-standing bilateral relationship and alliance between the United States and the Philippines,” he said.
“They’ve had a phone conversation before, they’ve been in touch since,” he said.
An earlier report stated the two will reportedly discuss human rights among others.
Mr Trump has faced criticism previously for his approach to dealing with Mr Duterte, who has been accused of overseeing human rights abuses for his handling of his country’s war on drugs. The two leaders have not met in person yet, but spoke on the phone in May, when they ha a “friendly discussion” that included an invitation for Mr Duterte to visit the White House.
The trip marks the first time that Mr Trump will visit the region in his official capacity, and comes as the President has overseen increasingly contentious relations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme.
“The President’s travel will underscore his commitment to long-standing United States alliances and partnerships, and reaffirm United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Duterte first called Trump after the latter was elected president in November last year.
Last April, Trump returned the favor and called Duterte at the conclusion of the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila.
Trump will be in the Philippines to attend a gala dinner on November 12. He will conduct bilateral talks the following day and attend some of the regional summit meetings that will be held in Manila.
The senior White House officials did not disclose specific topics that will be discussed during the bilateral meeting between Duterte and Trump but confirmed that the 2 presidents “will talk about a range of issues in the relationship.”
Asked if the US will comment on human rights issues in the Philippines, a senior White House official said, “The US is always forthright with our friends and allies about human rights issues and the importance of rule of law but the real, I think, the thrust of their meeting is to expand their very warm rapport that the 2 leaders have already built.”
The senior White House officials also denied Duterte’s allegation that the US Central Intelligence Agency is plotting to oust him.
“As for the conspiracy theory that you laid out… that does not jibe with reality,” they said.