Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday that if U.S. President Donald Trump brings up human rights when they meet later this week, he'd tell the American leader to "lay off."
"You want to ask a question, I'll give you an answer. Lay off," Duterte told reporters as he left an Asia-Pacific conference in Vietnam, where he will see Trump before they also meet again next week in Manila. "That is not your business. That is my business. I take care of my country and I will nurture my country to health."
Duterte has been adamant in defending his country's human rights record and war on drug users, a campaign in which 3,900 Filipinos have been killed in what police say is self-defense after armed suspects have resisted arrest.
Critics, including the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, say the killings have been extrajudicial with no accountability, allegations the police have rejected.
Duterte was infuriated by the criticism from the United States, a long-time ally, and last year, before Trump's election, called for a military and economic "separation" from the U.S. In the future, he said, the Philippines would align with Russia and China "against the world."
Duterte, however, later eased off the criticism of Washington, saying he was only talking about "separation of foreign policy" and not diminished economic links between the two countries.
"It's not severance of ties.... I cannot do that," Duterte said at the time as he returned from a trip to China.
The White House has said that Trump could raise human rights questions with Duterte; but, a senior administration official briefing reporters last week about Trump's Asia trip said the two leaders had developed "a warm rapport."
The official said Trump is "very much looking forward to his first meeting with President Duterte."
In May, after speaking with Duterte by phone, Trump said the Philippine leader has done an "unbelievable job on the drug problem."