Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte apparently can't say anything nice, so President Obama has decided the pair won't say anything at all. Obama called off a planned meeting Tuesday with Duterte, reports the AP, seeking distance from a US ally's leader during a diplomatic tour that's put Obama in close quarters with a cast of contentious world figures. It's unusual for one president to tell another what to say or not say, and much rarer to call the other a "son of a bitch." Duterte did both just before flying to Laos for a regional summit, warning Obama not to challenge him over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. "Clearly, he's a colorful guy," Obama said. "What I've instructed my team to do is talk to their Philippine counterparts to find out is this in fact a time where we can have some constructive, productive conversations." National Security Council spokesman Ned Price later said the meeting with Duterte was off.
Duterte has been under intense global scrutiny over the more than 2,000 suspected drug dealers and users killed since he took office. Obama had said he planned to raise the issue in his meeting with Duterte, but the Philippine leader insisted he was only listening to his own country's people. "You must be respectful," Duterte said of Obama. "Do not just throw questions." Eager to show he wouldn't yield, Obama said he would "undoubtedly" still bring up human rights and due process concerns "if and when" the two do meet. Managing Duterte has become a worsening headache for Obama. Washington has tried largely to look the other way as Duterte pursued closer relations with China, a marked shift for the Philippines. Last month, Duterte said he didn't mind Secretary of State John Kerry but "had a feud with his gay ambassador—son of a bitch, I'm annoyed with that guy."