Carter says defense relationship with Philippines is strong

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte leaves the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said on Tuesday that the defense relationship with the Philippines was a “strong” and “longstanding” one, when asked about the Philippines’ president’s insult toward U.S. President Barack Obama.

Carter, speaking to reporters as he was landing in London, also described the Philippines’ new defense minister, Delfin Lorenzana, as someone who was “very knowledgeable about all the things that we do together”.

President Rodrigo Duterte called Obama a “son of a bitch” and said he would not be lectured over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ drug war. Duterte later voiced regret for his language. The two had been scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Laos but Obama canceled the meeting.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Writing by Yara Bayoumy