U.S. PRESIDENT Barack Obama is expected to raise human rights and security concerns when he meets with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during their official visit to Laos early next month.
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes revealed this in a press conference Monday when asked if the two leaders would talk about Duterte’s controversial remarks about women and journalists, among others, Reuters reported.
“We absolutely expect that the president will raise concerns about some of the recent statements from the president of the Philippines,” Rhodes was quoted as saying.
He said the meeting will also cover other pressing issues such as the tensions involving the South China Sea territorial dispute. In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China breached the Philippine’s sovereign rights by exploring resources in the South China Sea, a decision which has incensed the Chinese government.
It is unclear, however, whether Obama also plans to raise concerns over Duterte’s controversial anti-drugs campaign, which has been blamed for the wave of extrajudicial killings that have claimed the lives of nearly 1,800 drug suspects.
Obama is expected to meet Duterte in Laos on Sept 6 as part of a summit of leaders from Pacific Rim nations, the news agency reported.
During his visit, the first ever by a sitting U.S. president, Obama is scheduled to attend a pair of regional conferences: the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit.
He will also have bilateral meetings with President Bounnhang Vorachit and other officials to “advance U.S.-Lao cooperation on economic, development, and people-to-people ties, among other areas.
Prior to Laos, Obama will also drop by China to participate in the G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou, alongside leaders from the world’s top 20 industrialized and developing nations.
Meanwhile, Duterte has told China’s ambassador that he will not immediately press Beijing to comply with an international tribunal’s ruling that invalidated Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, but will do so in the future.
Duterte made the comments in a speech Monday marking the Philippine heroes’ day that was attended by Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and other diplomats. Zhao just smiled in response.
China avoids discussion of its territorial disputes in the presence of other governments.
Duterte said pressing China to comply now might result in the suspension of talks between the two countries, which would not be good.
The tribunal ruled in July that China’s extensive claims are invalid under a 1982 U.N. treaty, in a major setback for Beijing, which has ignored the decision.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press