MANILA – US President Donald Trump asserted on Monday he shares a great relationship with his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, at a media briefing ahead of their first bilateral meet on the sidelines of the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
At the meeting, the leaders had discussed terror group Islamic State, illegal drugs, and trade.
“Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders.
At the media briefing, reporters had asked Trump if Duterte’s controversial anti-drug campaign, which has left more than 6,000 people dead throughout the Philippines in the last 16 months, almost 4,000 of them died at the hands of the police, was on the agenda of the meeting.
Trump, however, chose not to answer the question, while Duterte clarified that since it was a bilateral meeting, they would not be talking about such issues.
“You guys, you are the spies,” Duterte joked to the media, eliciting a laugh from Trump too.
Trump, who in May had praised the war on drugs during a telephone conversation with Duterte, has been urged by several human rights groups to broach the topic with his Philippine counterpart.