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Duterte rejects Trump's invite to attend special U.S.-ASEAN summit

MANILA, Philippines – "No."

President Rodrigo Duterte rejected United States President Donald Trump's invitation for him, along with other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to fly to the US for a special summit in March. (READ: ASEAN foreign ministers agree to hold summit with Trump)

Duterte announced his decision in an interview with Russian propaganda arm RT news, which shared on Thursday, January 23, a clip of its exclusive interview that was scheduled to air in full on Friday, January 24.

"I just received an invitation to go to the United States together with the ASEAN leaders. I haven't been to the States. I was invited by [former US President Barack] Obama, but I did not [go]," Duterte said.

Asked if he would attend the special summit between the US and ASEAN, Duterte then answered, "No, no."

Back to Obama: In refusing to attend the special summit in March, Duterte harked back to his tumultuous relationship with Obama, who was critical of Duterte's war on drugs. Duterte said while he wanted to make friends, he would not forget the former US leader's remarks against him.

"One time, when I was being criticized by Obama in a press conference, he should have realized I was also a head of sovereign state. He should have criticized me in the proper venue," Duterte said.

The Philippine President was referring to a September 2016 press conference, where Obama urged Duterte to conduct his drug war "the right way," as thousands were being killed through extrajudicial means in relation to his drug war.

The criticism, along with Washington officials' concerns involving the Philippine President, prompted Duterte to curse Obama. It came to a head with Obama cancelling a meeting with Duterte at an international summit in Laos in early September 2016.

"He should have brought the case to the United Nations rather than castigate a president of another country in a press conference. So I got mad. So I said a lot of cuss – I said you son of a -----, I said you're a son of a -----," Duterte recalled to RT News.

Russia's message: Duterte's decision to turn down an invite by the US was made known after the Russian embassy in the Philippine tweeted a clip of the RT News interview.

"President Duterte told RT on why he will decline to accept the US President invitation to attend summit in USA," the Russian embassy tweeted on Thursday, January 23, tagging the Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO).

PCOO officials have gone through media and information training in Russia, whose information operations has been known to spread propaganda, misinformation, and false news. (EXCLUSIVE: Russian disinformation system influences PH social media)

President Duterte told @RT_com on why he will decline to accept the US President invitation to attend summit in USA @pcooglobalmedia https://t.co/1D8iWAJ3Z4 pic.twitter.com/btCoqrG7la — Russian Embassy in the Philippines (@RusEmbManila) January 23, 2020

Duterte's dislike: Asked if the Philippines would attend, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said among the concerns Duterte had when visiting the US was whether or not he would be issued a visa and allowed entry. This followed news of the possibility that the US would revoke the visa of Philippine officials involved in the drug war.

The US visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, who was the architect of Duterte's bloody drug war during his stint as former chief of the Philippine National Police, has been cancelled. 

Duterte had, on many occasions, expressed his dislike for the United States, particularly under the administration of Obama, who was critical of his war on drugs. Even with the assumption of Trump, with whom he has built rapport, Duterte has repeatedly stated he would never visit "lousy" America. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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