U.S. President Donald J. Trump declared on Monday that he had a “great relationship” with his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte, a self-proclaimed killer who is waging a drugs war that rights groups say involves mass murder, as the leaders joked with each other during a meeting in Manila.
The U.S. president is in the Philippines with leaders of 18 other nations for two days of summits, the final leg of a headline-grabbing Asian tour dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis.
Will be leaving the Philippines tomorrow after many days of constant mtgs & work in order to #MAGA! My promises are rapidly being fulfilled.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2017
Rights groups had called on Mr. Trump to end his Asian journey with a strong statement against Mr. Duterte’s drugs war, which has seen police and suspected vigilantes kill thousands of people.
But in a series of encounters over Sunday and Monday, Mr. Trump and Mr. Duterte appeared to enjoy each others’ company, leading to warm praise from the U.S. president during official talks at lunchtime.
“We’ve had a great relationship. This has been very successful,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Duterte in brief opening remarks at their meeting.
Mr. Trump praised the Philippine president for his organisation of the summits, saying he handled them “beautifully.”
“I’ve really enjoyed being here,” he said.
As the reporters were being escorted out of the room, one asked if Mr. Trump would raise the issue of human rights, to which Mr. Duterte jokingly called the media “spies.” Both laughed but neither answered.
The White House said later in the day that human rights and the war on drugs were “briefly” discussed during the talks.