His lengthy Asia trip nearing its end, President Trump once more pushed for equitable trade deals and opted to publicly prioritize strategic interests over human rights, declining to shine a spotlight on the violent drug war overseen by his Philippine host, reports the AP. Trump repeatedly praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, pointedly calling him by his first name. What he did not do was what many predecessors have done: highlight human rights abuses while overseas. Duterte has overseen a bloody drug war that has featured extrajudicial killings and has boasted about killing people with his own hands. During brief remarks to reporters, Trump said he and Duterte have "had a great relationship," but avoided questions on whether he'd raise human rights issues.
The White House later said the two leaders discussed the Islamic State, illegal drugs, and trade during the 40-minute meeting. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said human rights came up "briefly" in the context of the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs. That appeared to conflict with the Philippines' version of the meeting. A spokesman for Duterte, said "there was no mention of human rights" or "extralegal killings. There was only a rather lengthy discussion of the Philippine war on drugs with President Duterte doing most of the explaining." The New York Times notes that Trump's political and business worlds collided at the private meeting. Present was Jose EB Antonio, who is Duterte's trade envoy to the US as well as a partner with Trump on a luxury tower in Manila.