The Philippine president, who has been hostile to Barack Obama for criticizing his deadly anti-drug crackdown, has congratulated Donald Trump for a “well-deserved victory” and said he is excited to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin at an upcoming Asia-Pacific summit.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been criticized for his foul language and the drug crackdown, gave upbeat remarks about the president-elect and Putin in a late Tuesday news conference in Manila.
Asked whether his ties with America can improve under Trump, Duterte replied: “I’m sure, we have no quarrel. I can always be a friend to anybody, specially to a … president, chief executive of another country.”
Duterte, who has been compared to Trump due to his devil-may-care irreverence to rivals and critics, said the U.S. president-elect was “the chosen leader of the people of the most powerful country in the world.”
“I trust in his judgment,” said Duterte, adding he expected Trump to be fair in dealing with illegal immigrants.
Filipinos make up one of the largest expatriate groups in the U.S.
Duterte, 71, has had a frosty relationship with Obama and the U.S. government since he U.S. spoke out against his anti-drug war that is thought to have left more than 4,000 drug suspects dead since July. At the height of his public outbursts, he told Obama to “go to hell” and announced his “separation” with America, his country’s treaty ally, during a state visit to China last month.
Duterte later walked back on that, saying what he meant was his desire to chart a foreign policy that would not overly lean on America.
But Duterte has publicly vowed to stop joint combat drills with the U.S. military and scale back other security engagements with Washington, although he has also softened up on those threats. Philippine defense officials announced last week that Duterte had agreed to allow a smaller number of joint military exercises, adding that overt assault drills would be discontinued.
The push away from Washington has been accompanied by Duterte reaching out to China and Russia.
Duterte said he wants to meet with Putin, who he adds also loves guns and hunting, at this month’s APEC summit in Peru, and that he wants their countries to have strong ties.
“I will not ask for anything. I want to be friends with him, I just want the two countries to be the best of friends,” he said.