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Trump hails 'fantasic job' on Asia tour, but ends it abruptly
By Huw GRIFFITH
Manila (AFP) Nov 14, 2017


Trump says Philippines vital for military reasons
Manila (AFP) Nov 14, 2017 - Donald Trump said Tuesday strong US ties with the Philippines were vital for military reasons, as he ended a trip to Manila in which he ignored allegations of mass murder under Rodrigo Duterte.

The US president said he had repaired relations with the Philippines, which soured last year when the administration of former president Barack Obama criticised Duterte's drug war.

"The (Philippines') relationship with the past administration was horrible, to use a nice word. I would say horrible is putting it mildly," Trump told reporters.

"And now we have a very, very strong relationship with the Philippines, which is really important: less so for trade, in this case, than for military purposes."

Duterte vowed during last year's election campaign that he would wage an unprecedented crackdown to eradicate illegal drugs in society, which he said would claim up to 100,000 lives.

Since Duterte took office 16 months ago thousands of people have been killed, with rights groups accusing police and hired assassins of mass murder.

Then-president Obama urged Duterte to follow the rule of law in prosecuting the drug war.

Duterte responded by branding Obama a "son of a whore" and using the controversy as a reason for building closer ties with China and Russia.

The Philippines, a former American colony, had been one the United States' most important allies in Asia, and the nations remain bound by a mutual defence pact.

Rights groups had called on Trump to voice concerns about the drug war in Manila, which was the last stop on a 12-day Asian tour.

Trump instead appeared in a range of events on the sidelines of summits involving leaders from 19 nations in which he and Duterte clearly enjoyed each others' company.

"We've had a great relationship. This has been very successful," Trump told Duterte in brief opening remarks at their official meeting on Monday.

"I've really enjoyed being here."

Trump then laughed as Duterte called the foreign and local media in the room "spies".

Duterte's spokesman later said Trump did not bring up any human rights concerns in the meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes.

Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said human rights were raised, although "briefly".

Duterte and Trump also sat next to each other at a pre-summit banquet on Sunday, during which they smiled, chatted and clinked champagne glasses.

Duterte sang a Filipino love song at the dinner, saying light-heartedly that he did so on the orders of the US president.

Donald Trump said he had done "a really fantastic job" on a five-nation tour of Asia in which he had made a lot of friends, but he ended it abruptly Tuesday by skipping most of a Philippine summit.

The US president, who began his journey in Japan 12 days ago, said his trip had seen progress in his goal of narrowing America's trade deficits.

"I've made a lot of friends at the highest level," Trump told reporters shortly before boarding Air Force One in Manila, adding the trip was "tremendously successful".

"I think the fruits of our labour are going to be incredible," he said, later predicting an already unveiled $300 billion worth of trade deals "is going to be quadrupled very quickly" to over a trillion dollars.

He offered no evidence for this assessment.

"It's been a really great 12 days," he said. "I think we have done a really fantastic job."

Before leaving, Trump gathered briefly with 18 other world leaders ahead of the start of the East Asia Summit, the final set piece of his trip.

The former reality TV star had initially planned to skip the summit, then backtracked after criticism it could be seen as a snub.

But he did not stay for the official start of the summit on Tuesday afternoon, also missing the preceding group photo with his fellow leaders.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat in for him at the summit, which was scheduled to run into the evening.

The summit groups the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Russia, as well as the United States.

- Pomp and pageantry -

In a trip that was dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis, Trump was treated to pomp and pageantry in Japan and South Korea, where he repeatedly blasted the regime of Kim Jong-Un.

Aboard Air Force One, he claimed success "in terms of North Korea and getting everybody together. I think their acts are all together".

In China, where President Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for a "state visit plus" -- a welcome Trump declared "people really have never seen anything like" -- the White House trumpeted more than $250 billion of trade deals.

Analysts say the headline figure hides a paucity of deliverables, with lots of the agreements being non-binding memorandums of understanding.

They say many will take years to yield results and some will never materialise.

En route to Hawaii, however, Trump was bullish, predicting a rapid closing of American trade deficits.

"I think one of the things we really accomplished big is relationship, and also letting people know that from now on, things are going to be reciprocal," he said.

"We can't have trade deficits of $30, $40, $50 billion; $300 billion in the case of China. We can't do that. We have to have reciprocal trade.

"You will see numbers that you won't believe over the years. Because over a period of years, they will be treating us much differently than they have in the past."

During a stop in Vietnam, the issue of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election reared its head again when Trump appeared to endorse President Vladimir Putin's assertion that there had been no plot by Moscow.

In the Philippines, Trump sparked headlines with his pally relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte, a man who has boasted of personally killing people and whose drug war has claimed thousands of lives.

Speaking to reporters as he flew over the Pacific Ocean, Trump again made no mention of human rights or the extrajudicial killings that campaigners say are part and parcel of Manila's drugs war.

But he praised the "important military location" of the country and said ties, which soured when his predecessor Barack Obama spoke out against Duterte's campaign, were back on track.

"Now we have a very good relationship there. We're back with the Philippines," he said.

SUPERPOWERS
China's Silk Road revival hits the buffers
Singapore (AFP) Nov 12, 2017
From a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan, China's push to revive Silk Road trade routes is running into problems that risk tarnishing the economic crown jewel of Xi Jinping's presidency. The "One Belt, One Road" initiative, unveiled by Xi in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, ... read more

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