US President Obama and Philippine President Duterte have 'ironed out their differences'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives for the Asean Summit family photo while United States President Barack Obama chats with Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah in Vientiane, Laos on Sept 7, 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives for the Asean Summit family photo while United States President Barack Obama chats with Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah in Vientiane, Laos on Sept 7, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) arrives at the gala dinner of the Asean Summits in Vientiane on Sept 7 2016.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) arrives at the gala dinner of the Asean Summits in Vientiane on Sept 7 2016. PHOTO: EPA
The leaders and their spouses having a group photo taken at the Asean Summits gala dinner.
The leaders and their spouses having a group photo taken at the Asean Summits gala dinner.PHOTO: EPA
(From left) Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo at the gala dinner.
(From left) Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo at the gala dinner.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - United States President Barack Obama met Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (Sept 7), before a gala dinner for leaders gathered for the Asean Summit in Laos.

"I think they have ironed out their differences," Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose said, quoting Mr Duterte's peace adviser Jesus Dureza.

Mr Jose told reporters the two leaders "briefly spoke" at a holding room before they walked to a large hall for the gala dinner.

The Philippines scrambled on Tuesday to soothe ties with the US, with Mr Duterte saying he regreted directing an expletive at Mr Obama over their differences concerning his war on crime.

Mr Obama scrapped a planned meeting with Mr Duterte in Laos after being told of Mr Duterte's intemperate language on Monday.

Reports quoting Philippine sources earlier said Mr Duterte would be seated in between Mr Obama and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon during the gala dinner.

 
 
 

Images from the dinner, however, showed the three seated apart.

Mr Duterte had earlier lambasted Mr Ban, as he called the United Nations "inutile" in the face of civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq.

Mr Ban had also criticised Mr Duterte's anti-crime push.

Mr Duterte sat in between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Mr Obama, meanwhile, sat in between Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Even for the group photo, the two were separated by seven other leaders.

In a statement he issued on Tuesday, Mr Duterte said: "All the immediate cause was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress. We also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US President."

Before leaving Manila on Monday, Mr Duterte reacted angrily to a reporter's question about how he would respond should Mr Obama confront him about the over 2,400 extrajudicial killings that have blighted his anti-crime push.

Using a Tagalog phrase for "whore mother", he warned Mr Obama: "Do not do it... We'll both just end up rolling in the mud... You must be respectful."

Upon arriving in Laos on Monday night, Mr Duterte was more contrite.

"I do not want to quarrel with (Mr Obama). He's the most powerful president of any country on the planet," he said.

Mr Duterte's aides later said the bilateral meeting between Mr Duterte and Mr Obama was just reset, but they did not say to when.

US officials, meanwhile, said the misunderstanding was just a "blip" in US-Philippine relations.