In Asia, Tillerson rallies support on North Korea, finds common ground with Duterte – Los Angeles Times

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seems to have found a bit of common ground with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a man remembered infamously for his obscene insults of previous American leaders.

Tillerson is on a three-nation tour of Asia to drum up support for the campaign against North Korea and its nuclear weapons program.

Showing a certain diplomatic tact, Tillerson appears to have tried to get on Duterte’s good side by skirting the controversy surrounding the Philippine president’s brutal war on suspected drug dealers, which has claimed thousands of lives, including many believed to be innocent.

Instead, Tillerson expressed solidarity with Duterte’s  simultaneous fight against Islamic State militants who have made incursions into southern parts of the island chain.

At the end of an hourlong meeting, Tillerson allowed that the two countries also share a serious drug problem, and he suggested there might be better ways to confront it.

The meeting took place Monday and was described to reporters by Tillerson’s chief communications advisor, R.C. Hammond, on Tuesday, as the secretary flew to Bangkok and then Malaysia.

“I see no conflict — no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation [on Islamic State] and our views of the human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counter-narcotics activities,” Tillerson said.

He said the United States has been providing the Philippines with surveillance instruments, training, information and aircraft to help fight the militants.

The main purpose of Tillerson’s trip has been to galvanize diplomatic and political forces against North Korea.

In Thailand, where Tillerson became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since the 2014 military coup, he sought Tuesday to encourage the country’s transition back to democracy and asked Thai leaders to put the squeeze on the North Korean diplomatic mission based there.

Numerous North Korean companies use Bangkok as a commercial hub, and the U.S. wants that to stop as part of international sanctions aimed at choking Pyongyang economically.

Later Tuesday, Tillerson traveled to Kuala Lumpur and met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In Asia, Tillerson rallies support on North Korea, finds common ground with Duterte – Los Angeles Times}