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Trump calls Philippines a 'strategic' piece of real estate

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he talks about his 12-day Asian tour that brought him to five countries in Asia, with the final stop in the Philippines for ASEAN Summit Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. At left is National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and at right is State Secretary Rex Tillerson. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Following his first visit to the country, US President Donald Trump described the Philippines as a "prime peace of real estate," for being a strategic military location.

The US leader, a real estate tycoon, capped off his 12-day Asian tour by attending the participating in the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila.

"The Philippines is an unbelievably important military location because if you speak to the admirals and you speak to the generals, that's a perfect spot," Trump told reporters aboard the Air Force One.Ear

He added that the important part of his visit to the country was that he was able to talk about trade with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Before departure, Trump similarly praised a new phase of the relationship with the Philippines, and stressed its strategic value to the US.

"It’s called the most prime piece of real estate from the military standpoint. So it’s very important that we get along with the Philippines and we really do. We have a good very good relationship. I would actually say, probably, better than ever before," he said.

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Trump also claimed that Washington was able to rebuild a relationship with Manila due to his visit.

"We had no relationship there. We're back in the Philippines, and now we have a very good relationship there," Trump said.

Trump noted that the administration of former President Barack Obama had a "lot of problems" in terms of their relationship with the Philippines. He described the Philippines-US relationship under his predecessor as "horrible."

"It is very important that we get along with the Philippines and we do," Trump said.

Fact check: US, Philippines had 'no relationship' prior to his visit, says Trump

Contrary to Trump's claims, Obama made two visits to the Philippines amid the ongoing maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

On the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Manila in 2015, Obama dropped by a coastal facility in the country to showcase Washington's maritime cooperation with Manila. He also announced the turnover of two ships for the Philippine military.

The Philippines and the US have been allies for almost 70 years. In 1951, the two countries signed Mutual Defense Treaty stating that both nations would support each other if either the Philippines or the US were to be attacked by an external party.

U.S. President Donald Trump waves goodbye as he enters Air Force One after participating in the East Asia Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. AP/Andrew Harnik

In 1999, the two countries signed a Visiting Forces Agreement allowing the US government to retain jurisdiction over US military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines.

The Philippines and the US also have an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, where the Philippines allowed the US to use five military bases where American troops and supplies can be stationed.

Filipino troops have also been conducting annual Balikatan joint military exercises with American troops.

But Duterte was not as warm with Obama as his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. A few months after being elected president, Duterte called the American leader a "son of a whore" after Obama expressed concern over killings in the Philippines' war on drugs.

Duterte also repeatedly lashed out at Obama in his public remarks. Last week, Duterte dropped a racial slur against the former US president and described him as "arrogant."

The tough talking Philippine leader appeared to strike a friendship with Trump, whom he had cordial conversations over the phone before meeting him face to face on Saturday in Vietnam.

In Manila, the two held a bilateral meeting, which Trump described as successful amid criticisms that he did not raise concern about the situation of human rights under Duterte.

RELATED: Trump in Asia: A break from the past but uncertain results | Trump: Asia trip 'tremendously successful'

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