Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed regret Tuesday over his "son of a bitch" remark while referring to President Obama, a move the AP calls "a rare display of contrition by a politician whose wide arc of profanities has unabashedly targeted world figures." In a statement, Duterte said that while his "strong comments" in response to questions by a reporter "elicited concern and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US president." Duterte had been scheduled to meet Obama during a regional summit in Laos, but Obama indicated he had second thoughts and the White House announced the meeting had been canceled.
The Philippines did not comment publicly on the cancellation until about nine hours later, when Duterte's statement said that both sides had "mutually agreed to postpone" the meeting. Even though Duterte's latest comment doesn't amount to an apology, the expression of regret is unusual for the tough-talking former mayor. But perhaps Duterte's aides realized that there would be a price to pay for insulting the president of the United States—especially when the US is a key security ally and Manila is likely to need Washington's help in dealing with a more assertive China in the disputed South China Sea. "I do not want to quarrel with the most powerful country on the planet," Duterte told reporters after arriving in Vientiane Monday night. (Read more Rodrigo Duterte stories.)