Philippines’ president expresses regret after insulting Obama
“While the immediate cause was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US president,” a statement released by Duterte said.
The US and Philippine leaders were due to meet later Tuesday in the Lao capital of Vientiane at a gathering organised by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
But Obama pulled out of holding a bilateral meeting after Duterte launched a tirade against him ahead of the visit during a Monday press conference.
The acid-tongued former prosecutor on Monday warned he would not be lectured by Obama over concerns about a brutal war on crime that has claimed more than 2,400 lives in the Philippines.
“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte told reporters when asked about his message for Obama.
Duterte’s statement on Tuesday in Laos struck a much more conciliatory tone, saying both sides would hold face-to-face talks “at a later date”.
“Our primary intention to chart an independent foreign policy while promoting closer ties with all nations especially the US with which we have a long standing partnership,” the statement said.
“We look forward to ironing out differences arising out of national priority perceptions and working in mutually responsible ways for both countries,” it added.
Under Aquino, the Philippines had forged closer military ties with the United States to deal with the China threat. But Duterte has cast doubt on that strategy.
He has also sought to heal relations with China rather than inflame them by pressing the tribunal’s ruling.
Nevertheless, the South China Sea issue is expected to once again be discussed at the three days of meetings hosted by ASEAN.
The gathering will see the 10 members of ASEAN meet among themselves, then with leaders from China, Japan, South Korea and the US.
Other leaders to come for an East Asia summit on Thursday include from Australia, India and New Zealand.
Obama’s time in Laos will be the final trip to Asia of his eight-year presidency, during which he has sought to refocus American military, political and economic resources on the region.
In one of the last acts of his so-called “pivot” to Asia,Obama is expected to announce greater help in clearing bombs dropped by US forces on Laos during the Vietnam War.
Obama will then travel to the ancient capital of Luang Prabang on Wednesday, visiting a historic temple and meeting with students at a university growing up in a tightly controlled communist nation.