MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said he did not mean to start a fight with US President Barack Obama, toning down on tough talk that led to the cancellation of a meeting between the two leaders.
Duterte, however, maintained that US officials should not have publicly criticized his bloody war on drugs, and instead sent him a diplomatic note so he could respond.
“I do not quarrel with the most powerful president of any country in the planet,” he told reporters in Laos before the White House announced on Tuesday that Obama had cancelled what would have been their first meeting.
“Ang mali lang nila is 'yung [Their mistake was], stop the state department, whoever keeps on mouthing, you could just have sent me a note verbale or whatever then let me respond and let the human rights act on it,” Duterte said.
Protocol dictates that “you cannot just shoot a statement against the president of a country,” he said.
Duterte had threatened to curse at Obama if the US leader brings up his relentless anti-drug campaign during their meeting. Since taking office on June 30, some 2,000 drug suspects have been killed, raising concern among human rights monitors.