Duterte opens ASEAN summit with oblique swipe at US, EU
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte opened an annual summit of Southeast Asian leaders on Saturday with an oblique swipe at Western governments, asking them not to meddle in the affairs of regional countries.
Duterte has often lashed out Western criticism of his brutal anti-drug crackdown. Although couched in diplomatic tone, the president’s remarks at the opening ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila reflect his combative character.
Ties between ASEAN and the West could become stronger and more productive “if we learn to respect each other’s independence and treat each other as sovereign equals,” Duterte said. “Relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit.”
Duterte also cited the need for the 10-nation bloc to address security issues, including terrorism and piracy, but made no mention of touchy South China Sea territorial rifts, which China did not want to be highlighted in the daylong talks.
The long-simmering disputes, along with alarm over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and intensifying standoff with the United States, have taken attention away from the more benign topics of regional economic integration.