U.S. official: Trump 'looking forward' to face-to-face meeting with Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 1) — There's "warm rapport" between US President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of their bilateral talks this month, a senior US administration official said.

"(President Trump is) very much looking forward to his first in-person meeting with President Duterte," the official is quoted as saying Tuesday at a press briefing in Washington D.C.

A transcript of the briefing on Trump's visit to Asia was provided by the US Embassy in Manila, which did not name the official.

The official said he expected the two leaders to "have frank and friendly discussions" in their meeting on November 13 on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit hosted by Duterte..

Trump makes his first official visit to Asia from November 3 to 14, considered by officials to be the "longest duration trip to Asia" by any US President since former President George H.W. Bush's trip in December 1991. The official said that from November 4 to 9, Trump will have one-on-one meetings with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, and China.

He will then proceed to Vietnam on November 10 for the leaders' meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. On November 12, Trump will be in the Philippines to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the  Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"On November 13, the President will celebrate the 40th anniversary of U.S.-ASEAN relations at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and also participate in bilateral meetings with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and other leaders," the officials added.

The two leaders have been likened to each other for their tough talk and controversial statements. Duterte and Trump have exchanged two phone calls in December 2016 and April 2017. This is in stark contrast to Duterte's stinging remarks against former US President Barack Obama, US lawmakers, and the former US ambassador to the Philippines over their comments on alleged human rights violations in the country's drug war.

After he assumed the presidency in July 2016, Duterte made moves indicating a shift in foreign policy towards China and Russia, and away from the country's longstanding ally, the United States.

The senior administration official, however, said at at the briefing that the Philippines-US alliance "is still very robust" especially in areas of counterterrorism, people-to-people ties, and human rights.

"The amount of cooperation that's taking place below the leader level and made possible by our longstanding relationship and alliance with the Philippines is still very robust," he noted.

He clarified that Trump would be present at the opening of the East Asia Summit, and that the US  would be "well-represented" at the meeting on November 14.

"Again, this is the longest trip of his presidency, the longest trip in more than a quarter of a century to Asia.  We can't have him away from Washington forever," the official said.