Obama, Duterte Meet Despite Filipino Leader’s Crude Language

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) -
US President Barack Obama arrives for the gala dinner at the ASEAN  summits at the National Convention Center in Vientiane, Laos, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
US President Barack Obama arrives for the gala dinner at the ASEAN summits at the National Convention Center in Vientiane, Laos, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

President Barack Obama and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met informally on Wednesday in a holding room before attending a gala dinner at a regional summit, Philippine officials said.

The brief meeting took a little sting out of the soured relations caused by Duterte’s crude language in referring to Obama earlier this week, and his warning to Obama not to bring up the issue of extrajudicial killings in the War on Drugs. After Duterte made those comments to reporters Monday, Obama canceled a formal meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday.

There was no immediate confirmation from the White House.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Pefecto Yasay told The Associated Press that the leaders had met.

“They met at the holding room and they were the last persons to leave the holding room. I can’t say how long they met. It all springs from the fact the relationship between the Philippines and the United States is firm, very strong. The basis for this relationship is historical and both leaders realize this. And I’m very happy that it happened.”

Obama and Duterte are in the Laotian capital along with other regional leaders for the summit. All of them made their way through the holding room before heading to the banquet hall.

On Tuesday, Duterte expressed regret over the remarks, but the damage was done.

A Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Charles Joe, also said Obama and Duterte met in the holding room. He said it was a mutually agreed upon meeting, but that he had no details of what was discussed.

Obama and Duterte entered the dinner venue separately, and were seated far apart and did not interact with each other during the dinner that lasted an hour and 20 minutes.