Ahead of President Trump's arrival in the Philippines on Sunday, the American leader came face to face with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) photo call in Danang, Vietnam.
Their meeting, alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, was captured in a photograph by Bong Go, special assistant to Duterte. Go then sent the image and other selfies to a number of Philippine reporters.
The photo captures the first time that Trump and Duterte have met in person, though they have spoken before on the phone. Trump will later meet again with Duterte during a visit to the Philippines for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, which is being held in Manila this year.
Trump's exchange with Duterte on Saturday came just a day after the controversial Philippine leader claimed to have stabbed someone to death when he was 16 — a message critics suggested showed he considered himself immune to human rights criticisms.
Duterte's claim was made during remarks to Filipinos living in Vietnam on Thursday. Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, who also snapped a number of selfies at the event, later told reporters that the comment was probably made in jest.
Duterte has repeatedly claimed to have killed people, including stabbing someone while a teenager. Last year, he told an audience that he used to ride around on a motorbike looking for alleged criminals to kill. “In Davao, I used to do it personally,” Duterte said in December, referring to the southern city where he was mayor for two decades. “Just to show to the [police] that if I can do it, why can’t you?”
Though such claims are often considered dubious, since Duterte took office last June the Philippines has waged a bloody war on the drug trade and the president has offered vocal support for the extrajudicial killings of criminals and drug users.
Under President Barack Obama, there were frosty relations between the United States and the Philippines. In September 2016, Duterte used a Tagalog phrase that translates to “son of a b----” or “son of a whore” while criticizing Obama's concerns about human rights, prompting the White House to cancel a planned bilateral meeting with the Philippine leader, though the pair later shook hands at the ASEAN summit.
Duterte also called Obama “black” and “arrogant” on Thursday, according to the Philippine Star newspaper.
Relations with Trump have been far warmer, with Duterte performing a playful impression of his first phone call with Trump last December. According to a transcript published by the Intercept, Trump later praised Duterte's war on drugs during another phone call in April. “Many countries have the problem [with drugs], we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing, and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said in the transcript.
Philippine officials have praised Trump ahead of his visit to the country, with spokesman Roque telling CNN that the two men were “very much alike in their thinking, language and demeanor.” Regarding the meeting at APEC, special assistant Go told reporters that it was brief and that Trump told Duterte: “See you tomorrow.”
More on WorldViews