Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has told President Barack Obama to “go to hell” in response to the US leader’s criticism of his deadly anti-drug campaign, suggesting he may eventually decide to “break up with America”.
“Instead of helping us, the first to criticise is this State Department, so you can go to hell, Mr Obama, you can go to hell,” Duterte said in a speech on Tuesday.
His anti-drug crackdown has left more than an estimated 3,000 suspected drug dealers dead in just three months, alarming the United Nations, the EU, the United States, and human rights groups.
Duterte outlined his disappointment with the US, which has asked his government to stop the widespread killings and questioned whether human rights are being violated.
The United States, he said, had refused to sell some weapons to his country, but he did not care because Russia and China were willing suppliers.
“If you don’t want to sell arms, I’ll go to Russia. I sent the generals to Russia and Russia said ‘do not worry, we have everything you need, we’ll give it to you’,” said Duterte.
“And as for China, they said ‘just come over and sign and everything will be delivered’.”
“The diplomatic lines of communication between the United States and the Philippines remain open,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “We have not yet received any sort of formal communication … about making substantial changes to our bilateral relationship.”
The response came shortly after Duterte said without elaborating: “Eventually I might, in my time, I will break up with America. I would rather go to Russia and to China.”
‘Hell is filled up’
He also lashed out anew at the European Union, saying the bloc, which has also criticised his brutal crackdown, “better choose purgatory, hell is filled up”.
Since becoming president in June, Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the US and with Obama, and has declared intentions to bolster relations with China and Russia as he revamps Philippine foreign policy that has long leaned on Washington.
Last month, Obama cancelled a planned first meeting with Duterte on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Laos after the Filipino leader blurted “son of a bitch” in warning the US leader not to lecture him on human rights ahead of their meeting.
Duterte later expressed regrets over his remarks.