Rex Tillerson and Rodrigo Duterte have face-to-face meeting



U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met privately with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Monday at his Malacanang Palace in Manila amid growing tensions surrounding North Korea's nuclear program.

Ahead of the meeting, Ernesto Bella, Duterte's presidential spokesman, said the two would likely discuss global terrorism threats, economic cooperation and security in Marawi, a city beset by pro-Islamic group militants for more than two months. The conflict in Marawi has killed nearly 700 people to date.

In conversations with reporters after the meeting, Duterte said U.S. officials did not bring up human rights violations. He has been criticized by human rights groups yet praised by U.S. President Donald Trump for his harsh tactics combating drugs. This war has left more than 3,000 dead in police shootouts as well as thousands of others killed in strange circumstances since its start.

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Everything you didn't know about Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
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Everything you didn't know about Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte was born on March 28, 1945 in Maasin, Southern Leyte, Philippines.

(PHILIPPINES-DAVAO/MODEL REUTERS/Renato Lumawag)

Duterte became the mayor of Davao City in 1988, where he earned the nickname “The Punisher.” He served as mayor for 20 years, non-consecutively.

(PHILIPPINES-DAVAO/MODEL REUTERS/Renato Lumawag)

Duterte comes from a family of politicians. His father, Vicente Duterte, was the governor of unified Davao and a member of President Ferdinand Marcos' cabinet. His daughter, Sara Duterte, is currently the mayor of Davao City.

(REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

Rodrigo Duterte was elected the 16th president of the Philippines in May 2016.

(REUTERS/Czar Dancel)

Duterte once compared himself to Adolf Hitler, saying he would kill millions of drug addicts.

(REUTERS/Ezra Acayan)

Duterte has led a violent anti-drug crackdown, and more than 7,000 have reportedly been killed since he has taken office. 

(Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Duterte called President Barack Obama a “son of a wh**e.” He made the comments after Obama brought up concerns about human rights violations in 2016. Duterte later apologized for the comment.

(Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Weeks before being sworn in as president, Duterte fueled an already hostile environment for journalists when he said, "Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a b****." 

(REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

In 2015, Duterte vowed to execute 100,000 criminals and dump their bodies into Manila Bay. 

(REUTERS/Czar Dancel)

Duterte cursed Pope Francis over traffic that was generated by his visit. 

"We were affected by the traffic," Duterte said. "It took us five hours. I asked why, they said it was closed. I asked who is coming. They answered, the Pope. I wanted to call him: 'Pope, son of a wh**e, go home. Do not visit us again'."

He later apologized. 

(PHILIPPINES - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Duterte came under fire in April 2016 after he made a joke about a missionary who was gang raped and murdered during a prison riot in 1989. “But she was so beautiful,” Duterte said. “I thought the mayor should have been first.” 

(REUTERS/Harley Palangchao)

A witness testified in Sept. 2016, claiming he was a member of Duterte's alleged "Davao Death Squad," and that the Filipino president gave orders to kill drug dealers, drug users and others who may violate the law. 

(Photo credit should read Ezra Acayan / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

In December of 2016, Duterte said President Donald Trump endorses his violent and deadly campaign against drugs after a brief phone call. 

(REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

Congressman Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte in March 2017, claiming he is guilty of crimes against humanity and murder.

(REUTERS/Erik De Castro TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

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"Human rights, son of a bitch," Duterte said. "Policemen and soldiers have died on me. The war now in Marawi, what caused it but drugs? So human rights, don't go there."

Tillerson told reporters ahead of the meeting that supporting Duterte as the Philippines fight the Islamic State group in Marawi did not mean that human rights concerns would be left out of the discussion.

"I see no conflict - no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of the human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counter narcotics activities," Tillerson said.

The top American diplomat said the U.S. has lent a hand to the Philippines already in Marawi in that regard, providing surveillance technology, including drones, as well as training, aircraft and information to fight the militants.

"The real challenge is going to come with once they have the fighting brought to an end how to deal with the conditions on the ground to ensure it does not re-emerge," Tillerson said.

Monday's meeting marked the highest-level in-person interaction to-date between the Philippine president and a member of Trump's administration, though Trump has extended an invitation to Duterte to visit Washington.

Tillerson has been busy at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' 50th annual regional conference, extending an olive branch to North Korea if it stops launching its ballistic missiles and conferring with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about Russia's retaliatory response to recently imposed U.S. sanctions against it.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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