White House explains decision to cancel Obama-Duterte meeting
Camille Diola (philstar.com) - September 7, 2016 - 5:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The United States on Tuesday night confirmed that the bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Barack Obama was canceled due to comments of the Philippine leader.

"Certainly the nature of those comments was not constructive and, therefore, there was enormous amount of attention on this series of statements by President Duterte," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said at a news conference in Vientiane.

"Given the important issues that we have, having a meeting where all we were gonna discuss was a series of comments, frankly did not strike us as the most constructive way to approach a bilateral meeting," he added.

Before leaving for the ASEAN summit in Laos on Monday, Duterte slammed the US as a hypocrite and cursed at the Obama, whose office earlier said would bring up the issue of human rights at his first meeting with the new Philippine leader.

"The Philippines is not a vassal state. We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States... I do not respond to anybody but to the people of the Republic of the Philippines. Wala akong pakialam sa kanya, who is he?" Duterte said before departure at the Davao International Airport.

Rhodes said that Obama and his team decided not to push through with the meeting with Duterte, whose country has a longstanding treaty alliance with the US, to give way to a "very important meeting" with South Korean President Park Gyeun-hye over recent development in North Korea.

Rhodes said that the White House, however, remains in contact with Duterte's office and gave assurance that the close relationship between the Philippines and the US willl remain.

He also said that Obama and Duterte will have a chance to meet informally on the sidelines of international meetings.

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