US Tillerson meets Philippines President ‘Duterte


US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson brushed aside questions about the Philippines’ deadly drug war on Monday as he received a warm welcome from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte’s 13-month-old administration has launched a brutal crackdown on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives and led to warnings by rights groups that he may be overseeing a crime against humanity.
But Washington fears offending its long-time ally could push it into the arms of US rival China, and it is backing Philippine troops as they battle to recapture part of a southern region occupied by militants aligned to the Islamic State group.
When Duterte welcomed Tillerson to his palace on Monday the pair ignored reporters’ questions about human rights, and afterwards the Philippine leader insisted the topic had not come up at the talks. “They did not,” Duterte replied when asked if US officials raised human rights during the discussions.
Last week, before Tillerson travelled to Manila to attend meetings with fellow foreign ministers at a regional diplomatic and security forum, US officials said he would raise the issue of the drug war.
But, just before the meeting, Tillerson denied there was any tension between Washington’s support for the fight against the Islamic State group and concerns about the alleged extra-judicial killings.
Tillerson described the crisis in the southern Philippine city of Marawi as a “tragic situation” and said US forces were providing surveillance aircraft and important advice for the Philippines forces in the battle there.


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