Vientiane, Laos (CNN) : President Barack Obama exchanged “pleasantries” with his Philippines counterpart on Wednesday following an ugly outburst earlier this week that led to a cancellation of formal talks between the two leaders.
Obama, Duterte exchange ‘pleasantries’ after spat
A White House official said that Obama had a “brief discussion” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of a gala dinner in the Lao capital marking the beginning of the yearly ASEAN summit.
The meeting took place in a holding space for leaders, the official said, adding the “exchange consisted of pleasantries between the two.”
Duterte was likely keen to clear the air after publicly scoffing earlier this week at suggestions that Obama would raise the issue of extrajudicial killings during their planned meeting.
“Who does he think he is? I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people,” he proclaimed before traveling to Laos for the summit.
In his rant, Duterte also declared, “Son of a bitch, I will swear at you,” though he later claimed that remark was directed at a journalist and not at Obama.
The White House said the remarks weren’t constructive and prompted called off the meeting, which had been slated for Tuesday.
“I think it was our judgment that given the focus and attention on President Duterte’s comments leading into the meetings here we felt that didn’t create a constructive environment for a bilateral meeting,” Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said during a briefing in Vientiane, Laos, on Tuesday.
Rhodes insisted the US-Philippines alliance remained “rock solid.”
After the meeting was canceled, Duterte expressed regret for his outburst, saying in a statement through his spokesman that he regretted “it came across as a personal attack on the US President.”
“We look forward to ironing out differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions,” the statement released on Tuesday read.