APEC SUMMIT
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Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines' Duterte lashes bully nations as he meets ‘hero’ Putin and promises to align foreign policy toward China

Philippines’ firebrand leader Rodrigo Duterte has lambasted the United States and other Western nations as bullies and hypocrites, while he praised Russia as a ‘great country’ in his first meeting with Vladimir Putin

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2016, 11:17am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 2016, 10:45pm

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met the man he calls his hero, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and unburdened his gripes about US “hypocrisy,” “bullying” and foreign wars.

Duterte, who has publicly expressed his admiration for the Russian leader, said the cold war had stood between their two countries as the Philippines, a former US colony, was historically identified with the West.

But that has changed now that he is president.

Since taking office in June, the foul-mouthed Duterte has upended the Philippines’ historical military alliance with the United States, repeatedly saying he was shifting toward China and Russia as he embarks on an independent foreign policy.

“It was good (while) it lasted,” Duterte told Putin of what he has called his “separation” from the United States.

“Of late, I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations. And not only that, they are into so much hypocrisy,” he said during their 45-minute meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in the Peruvian capital Lima.

“And they seem to start a war but are afraid to go to war. That is what is wrong with America and the others. They’ve been waging wars in so many places - in Vietnam, in Afghanistan and in Iraq for one single reason that there was a weapon of mass destruction, and there was none.”

Duterte also met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Apec summit, promising that he will align his foreign policy toward China-led Asian economic development, further reinforcing his shift toward China amid his hostile stance toward the US.

Duterte first met Xi in a state visit to Beijing last month, where both sides forged mostly trade and economic accords. They also discussed longstanding territorial disputes in the South China Sea. After his China trip, Filipinos were allowed back to fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which Chinese coast guard vessels have guarded since seizing the rich fishing area in 2012.

Xi also accepted an invitation by Duterte to visit the Philippines, according to a statement released by the Philippine Presidential Communications Office Sunday. No timeframe was given for the visit.

Duterte has spoken of his admiration for Xi and also for the leadership of Putin. In an interview with Al Jazeera broadcast on Thursday, he described Putin as sincere, and joked that he had a “hillbilly” style.

In Duterte’s meeting with Putin he also said the Philippines longed to be part of Europe.

“We’ve been longing to be part also of - despite the distance - we have been longing to be part of Europe, especially in commerce and trade around the world.”

Duterte, who has cultivated an image as a no-nonsense leader, said last month that “my favourite hero is Putin”.

He has also said that he and Putin seem to share a passion for guns and women.

Favourite targets for his abusive verbal tirades are US President Barack Obama, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the European Union.

All three have expressed concern over Duterte’s iron-fisted policy against drugs, which they said violated human rights and due process.

Duterte missed the gala dinner at the Apec summit Saturday evening, sending a message to the hosts that he was sick.

Staying put in his hotel may have avoided a potentially awkward encounter with Obama, who cancelled a meeting with him at another summit in September after Duterte called him a “son of a whore”.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters