PM Lee meets Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Vientiane ahead of Asean summits

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Laos on Sept 6, 2016. PHOTO: MCI

VIENTIANE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday morning (Sept 6), ahead of the opening of the 28th and 29th Asean Summits in the afternoon.

During the half-hour meeting, the first between the two leaders, Mr Lee congratulated President Duterte on his election.

Both leaders also reaffirmed the long and close ties between Singapore and the Philippines and looked forward to the celebrations of the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations in 2019, said Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin.

The two leaders discussed domestic and regional developments, and Mr Lee welcomed Mr Duterte making a visit to Singapore.

Mr Duterte sparked controversy even before he left the Philippines for the annual meeting of leaders of the 10 Asean nations.

On Monday, he launched into an expletive-laced tirade against United States President Barack Obama in front of reporters in Davao, cautioning Mr Obama against questioning the extrajudicial killings that have marked his anti-crime push at home.

Mr Obama's National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said later that Mr Obama's meeting with Mr Duterte, set for Tuesday afternoon on the sidelines of the summitry, was off.

Mr Duterte has since expressed regret for his remarks, with his office issuing a statement on Tuesday that said he looks forward to "ironing out our differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions".

"While 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," the statement added.

The Philippines will take the Asean chairmanship in 2017, with Laos set to formally pass the baton at the close of this year's Asean summits on Thursday.

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