UPDATES WITH DUTERTE'S ICC COMMENTS
By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will meet with the leaders of Russia and China on Saturday on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim regional summit in Peru.
Since taking office June 30, Duterte has announced his administration’s pursuit of an “independent” foreign policy, declaring his country’s “separation” from long-time ally the United States as it seeks to improve relations with Russia and China.
News broadcaster ABS-CBN reported Thursday that Duterte is scheduled to depart at noon for Lima to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leader’s meeting Nov. 19-20.
On the sidelines of the summit, he is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President President Xi Jinping on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Duterte said that he had a “long talk” with Russia’s ambassador to the Philippines.
“I reiterated my desire to meet Putin, bilateral," GMA News quoted him as saying during a dinner he hosted for journalists who covered his election campaign.
“I want to be friends with him [Putin]. I just want to the two countries to be the best of friends. This is an economic world. If there are things we can sell them or export to them, it would be better,” he added.
The upcoming APEC summit will be the first attended by Duterte and the last attended by outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, who Duterte has cursed at on several occasions.
This year’s meeting will convene amid concerns over the protectionist policies advocated by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
Despite his criticisms of Obama -- who canceled a meeting with Duterte in September after one of his outbursts -- the Philippine leader has made welcoming comments toward Trump.
"I don’t want to fight now that Trump’s there," Duterte said after Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 election.
“May you live, Mr. Trump! We both curse at the slightest of reason. We are alike,” he added.
Before departing for Peru, Duterte told reporters that he might follow Russia in withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which expressed concern last month over his government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
“I might follow their lead. Why? These people only pick on small countries like us,” ABS-CBN quoted him as saying.
On Wednesday, Putin withdrew Russia from the ICC after the court referred to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in eastern Ukraine in 2014 as an armed conflict.
The ICC is also facing mounting pressure due to withdrawals by several African states.
Under Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, more than 4,800 people have been killed in police operations and “vigilante-style killings” since July 1, according to national police data cited by Rappler.