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Philippines president Duterte wants to be friends with Trump and Putin

Published 16/11/2016

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech in Manila (AP)
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech in Manila (AP)

Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte, who has been hostile to Barack Obama for criticising his deadly anti-drugs crackdown, has congratulated US President-elect Donald Trump on a "well-deserved victory" and said he is excited to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin at an upcoming Asia-Pacific summit.

President Duterte, who has been condemned for his foul language and the drugs crackdown, gave upbeat remarks about Mr Trump and Mr Putin in a news conference in Manila late on Tuesday.

Asked whether his ties with America can improve under Mr Trump, Mr Duterte replied: "I'm sure, we have no quarrel. I can always be a friend to anybody, specially to a ... president, chief executive of another country."

Mr Duterte, who has been compared to Mr Trump due to his devil-may-care irreverence to rivals and critics, said the US President-elect was "the chosen leader of the people of the most powerful country in the world".

"I trust in his judgment," said Mr Duterte, adding that he expected Mr Trump to be fair in dealing with illegal immigrants.

Filipinos make up one of the largest expatriate groups in the US.

Mr Duterte, 71, has had a frosty relationship with Mr Obama and the US government since the President spoke out against the Philippines leader's anti-drugs war which is thought to have left more than 4,000 drug suspects dead since July.

At the height of his public outbursts, he told Mr Obama to "go to hell" and announced his "separation" with America, his country's treaty ally, during a state visit to China in October.

Mr Duterte later rowed back on that, saying what he meant was his desire to chart a foreign policy that would not overly lean on America.

But Mr Duterte has publicly vowed to stop joint combat drills with the US military and scale back other security engagements with Washington, although he has also softened on those threats. Philippine defence officials announced last week that Mr Duterte had agreed to allow a smaller number of joint military exercises, adding that overt assault drills would be discontinued.

The push away from Washington has been accompanied by Mr Duterte reaching out to China and Russia.

The Philippines leader has said he wants to meet Mr Putin, who, he adds, also loves guns and hunting, at this month's Apec summit in Peru, and that he wants their countries to have strong ties.

"I will not ask for anything. I want to be friends with him, I just want the two countries to be the best of friends," he said.

AP

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