A White House spokesman says President Barack Obama will likely have some interaction with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at a pair of regional summits after canceling a planned direct meeting.
Duterte on Monday said Obama should not lecture him about a crackdown on drug traffickers that has resulted in more than 2,000 killings since June. He used the Tagalog phrase for "son of a bitch," and on Tuesday expressed regret that his comments came across as a personal attack against the U.S. leader.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters late Tuesday that attention to Duterte's statements took focus away from the "very substantive agenda" between the United States and the Philippines and did not make for a constructive environment for a meeting.
But he said the overall relationship between the two nations is still solid.
"Frankly, where we've had differences with President Duterte has related more to our concerns that there needs to be a clear commitment to due process and the rule of law as it relates to some of the internal security efforts that had been undertaken there," Earnest said. "On the alliance issues, we'll continue to work closely with them."
Duterte, who campaigned for the Philippine presidency on promises to end illegal drug activity in his homeland, has alarmed an array of human rights organizations with his deadly crackdown. He has defended the killings, saying he is following the will of those who elected him.
Source: Voice of America