Philippines' Duterte regrets Obama insult

Duterte's calling Obama a "son of a bitch" led to the US president cancelling a meeting between the two leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China.

Courtesy of: Reuters
Courtesy of: Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (2nd R) arrives for the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed regret over comments he made about US President Barack Obama that came across as a personal attack and led to the cancellation of a meeting between the leaders of the two allied nations, the Philippines government said on Tuesday.

The statement released at a summit in Laos said that President Duterte explained that press reports that President Obama would 'lecture' him on extrajudicial killings led to his strong comments, which in turn elicited concern. 

"He regrets that his remarks to the press have caused much controversy," the statement said.

Earlier on Tuesday, it was reported that President Obama cancelled his first meeting with Duterte after the blunt-spoken Duterte described him as a "son of a bitch".

The White House had earlier said Obama would not pull any punches on his concerns about human rights abuses in the Philippines, its treaty ally, when meeting Duterte.

Duterte responded to that with his "son of a bitch" comment to reporters on Monday before leaving to join fellow leaders of Southeast Asian and East Asian leaders for the summit.

Obama learned about the insult as he emerged from the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China. At a news conference, he said he had told his aides to speak with Philippine officials "to find out is this, in fact, a time where we can have some constructive, productive conversations."

Hours later, his aides said the meeting had been cancelled.

US President Barack Obama walks to honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS

Instead, Obama plans to meet South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday, said Ned Price, spokesman for the White House National Security Council - a meeting where the response to North Korea's latest missile tests is expected to be on the agenda.

Moves to soothe tensions 

The unusually open tensions between the United States and the Philippines, its former colony and long-term ally, threaten to overshadow the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summits in Laos from Tuesday to Thursday.

The 10-member ASEAN will meet leaders of other regional powers: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Russia and the United States.

Moving quickly to soothe the tensions with Washington, Duterte said in a separate statement that he remained committed to Manila's alliance with the United States.

"Our primary intention is to chart an independent foreign policy while promoting ties with all nations, especially the US with which we have had a longstanding partnership," he said.  

TRTWorld, Reuters