Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed regret Tuesday that a comment he made involving vulgar language came across as a personal attack against U.S. President Barack Obama.
"Our primary intention is to chart an independent foreign policy while promoting closer ties with all nations, especially the U.S., with which we have a long standing partnership," he said in a statement.
Don't lecture me
Before departing Monday for a regional summit in Laos, Duterte warned Obama not to lecture him about a crackdown on drug traffickers that has resulted in more than 2,000 killings since he took office in June.
"You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions," Duterte said. Using the Tagalog phrase for "son of a b****," he then said: "Putang ina, I will swear at you in the forum."
Obama initially shrugged off Duterte's comments, telling reporters, "Clearly, he's a colorful guy." But the White House later said Obama had canceled a planned meeting with Duterte and would instead hold talks with South Korea's leader.
The statement from Duterte expressed regrets that his comments had caused "much controversy" and said that he looked forward to "ironing out differences."
Use of profanity not unusual
Duterte's use of profanity is a pattern of speech he often uses when irked, Asian Foundation analyst Steven Rood in Manila told VOA's Victor Beattie. He used similar language to describe Pope Francis's visit to the Philippines in 2015.
"He and his followers regard that as a normal pattern of speech, but of course when President Obama wonders whether or not a meeting with him would be productive, that pattern of speech might cause some doubts," Rood said.
Though the "spat" certainly does not help U.S.-Philippine relations, the two countries have robust military relations as well as a USAID program, so Rood says there are many reasons for the relationship to go forward.
Duterte, who campaigned for the Philippine presidency on promises to end illegal drug activity in his homeland, has alarmed an array of human rights organizations with his deadly crackdown.
He has defended the killings, saying he is following the will of those who elected him.