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Trump avoids public rebuke of Duterte over war on drugs

The US president did not address the Philippines leader's record on human rights.

Donald Trump pictured with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
Donald Trump pictured with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte AP

US President Donald Trump has held talks with Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte but avoided publicly addressing human rights issues in the country.

An estimated 4,000 people have died in Mr Duterte's bloody war on drugs that features extrajudicial killings.

Human rights groups believe the death toll is much higher.

Instead Mr Trump praised Mr Duterte's "incredible" hospitality" and the organisation of the ASEAN summit he has hosted in Manila.

But both leaders ignored questions from reporters about the bloody war on drugs Mr Duterte has sanctioned that features extrajudicial killings.

Later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the 40-minute talks focused on Islamic State, illegal drugs and trade.

She added that human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs. But did not say if Mr Trump was critical of the violence.

 Mr Trump is on the final stop of a five-country tour of Asia.
Mr Trump is on the final stop of a five-country tour of Asia. AP

Mr Duterte was elected to office last year after vowing during the campaign that 100,000 people would die as he eradicated illegal drugs in society.

No stranger to controversy, last week the Philippines President has strenuously defended his drugs war and boastted of participating himself.

On Friday, Mr Duterte claimed that he had fatally stabbed a man as a teenager. His spokesman later tried to play down the comment, saying "I think it was in jest."

Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte has offered to shoot criminals himself.
Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte has offered to shoot criminals himself. AP

To date, Mr Trump appears to have shown little interest in pressuring Mr Duterte to rein in the violence.

In May, he even congratulated him on "the unbelievable job on the drug problem", according to a leaked transcript of a telephone conversation.

Mr Trump also criticised his predecessor Barack Obama during the call, saying he "did not understand" the drug problem the Philippines faces.

Mr Duterte had previously referred to Mr Obama a "son of a w*e", leading to the cancellation of their first meeting.

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