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US President Trump invites President Duterte



UNITED States President Donald Trump has invited President Duterte to visit the US and attend a summit among the leaders of the US and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The invitation was first extended during the ASEAN-US meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, last November, 2019. The US reiterated the invitation in a letter dated last January 9, 2020. Trump and the ASEAN leaders are to meet on March 14, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In his letter to the ASEAN leaders, Trump reiterated that the US remains committed “to our strategic partnership with ASEAN, and to supporting the organization’s central role in the Indo-Pacific region’s economic, political-security, and socio-cultural affairs.”

It has been three years and eight months since President Duterte won election in May, 2016. Since then he has visited China five times, Russia twice, and several other countries, but he has not visited the US. All previous Philippine presidents had visited to the US soon after their election.

When President Duterte launched his anti-drugs drive in the country, then US President Barack Obama counseled him to carry out the drive with greater respect for human rights. President Duterte responded: “Instead of helping us, the first to criticize is this State Department, so you can go to hell, Mr. Obama.” Soon afterwards, when the US refused to sell weapons to Manila, he said, he might break up with the US.

President Duterte found President Trump a more agreeable US official but he kept his distance from the US government. Last December, when the US Congress approved the US national budget, two senators pushed for the inclusion of a provision banning any Philippine official involved in Sen. Leila de Lima’s imprisonment from entering the US.

President Duterte countered with a ban on the two senators. But he said he bears no ill feelings towards President Trump who had signed the budget bill with its De Lima provision. But even without the De Lima issue, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, President Duterte has repeatedly said he does not want to visit the US.

Now comes US President Trump’s official letter to President Duterte and the leaders of the other ASEAN nations, inviting them to the US-ASEAN Summit in March. “The American people and I hope to see you in the United States soon,” President Trump said.

It is a matter of great national importance, with implications not only for our relations with the US but also with our fellow ASEAN nations. Ultimately, we trust in the President’s sound judgment and that of his closest advisers and officials of our country whose views he may seek.