Duterte may or may not accept Trump's invite to White House
Duterte's statement on President Donald Trump's invitation is seen to come at a time when the Philippines is giving priority to its relations with China. Photograph: (Reuters)
The Philippine president said he may or may not accept the United States president's invitation to the White House.
US President Donald Trump invited the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Washington to discuss important bilateral relations, said the White House on Sunday following a "very friendly" telephone conversation between the two leaders.
"I'm tied up I cannot make any definite promise...I'm supposed to go to Russia, Israel...," said Duterte during a visit to the Chinese fleet in Davao on Monday, broadcast by local television.
Duterte's statement on President Donald Trump's invitation is seen to come at a time when the Philippines is giving priority to its relations with China.
The US government said it sought the support of Asian nations to isolate North Korea amid heightened tensions due to Kim Jong-un regime's missile tests and its continuation of nuclear weapons program.
Duterte, who called Barack Obama "son of a whore" in September following the former US president's criticism on the Philippines' war on drugs, had altered the Philippine foreign policy after he came to power in June, distancing the country from Washington and aligning itself more with Beijing.
Duterte, in his statement on Monday, also hinted at a possible engagement in the joint military drills with China in the west of Mindanao Island, a troubled region where pirates and Islamist terror groups remain active.
Three Chinese warships concluded a three-day visit to the Philippine port city of Davao on Monday in an attempt to strengthen the bilateral defense relations despite both being embroiled in the territorial disputes over sovereignty issue in the South China Sea.
The Philippine leader visited the Chinese President Xi Jinping in October and since then, both countries have strengthened their bilateral relations through several cooperation agreements.