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Trump boasts of superior relationship with Philippines President Duterte, who is accused of human rights violations

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

President Trump's planned meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines during a regional summit in Manila on Nov. 12-13 was already controversial.

Human rights groups have accused Duterte of allowing death squads to kill thousands of supposed drug users, and he has called former President Obama a "son of a whore" who can "go to hell."

Trump, as he often does, turned it up a notch Tuesday as he seemed to brag that he would have a superior relationship with Duterte than his predecessor.

“We're going to the Philippines," he told reporters as he described his upcoming 12-day trip to five countries in Asia, taking a break during a meeting on tax reform. "Which is a strategically important location where the previous administration was not exactly welcome, as you may remember.”

That came after a senior White House official briefed reporters on the trip earlier Tuesday and emphasized that Trump and Duterte have exchanged letters and spoken by phone as part of a thawing of relations between the two countries.

"There's a warm rapport there," the official said.

The Philippines is a former U.S. colony and relations between Washington and Manila have long been fraught.

In 1991, the government there forced the Pentagon to abandon two major bases in the Philippines, but the two countries have cooperated closely in counter-terrorism operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. 

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