President Barack Obama‘s final Asia tour has been “colorful” to say the least.
In a rare snub, the president canceled a meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Laos after the new leader called Obama a “son of a bitch” and threatened to swear at him in their planned talk.
“Clearly he’s a colorful guy,” Obama said of Duterte in a news conference at the close of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in China. “What I’ve instructed my team to do is to talk to their Philippine counterparts to find out: Is this in fact a time where we can have constructive, productive conversations?”
Duterte, who has also previously cursed Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, apologized for the remark on Tuesday in a statement read by his spokesman: “While the immediate cause was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US president. Our primary intention is to chart an independent foreign policy while promoting closer ties with all nations, especially the US with which we had had a longstanding partnership.”
“We look forward to ironing out differences arising out of national priorities and perceptions, and working in mutually responsible ways for both countries,” he added.
According to some, Duterte’s slur wasn’t the only show of disrespect the president received overseas. The first perceived snub came on Saturday as Obama touched down at the airport in China, where Chinese officials failed to provide a portable staircase that would allow the president to disembark from the upper door of Air Force One. Instead – and notably unlike other leaders who departed their planes onto red-carpeted stairs – Obama disembarked onto a plain metal staircase from a secondary exit at the back of the plane.
GOP nominee Donald Trump said he would have refused to meet with Chinese officials if they treated him in such a manner.
“They won’t even give him stairs, proper stairs to get out of the airplane. You see that? They have pictures of other leaders who are … coming down with a beautiful red carpet. And Obama is coming down a metal staircase,” Trump said Monday during a roundtable with labor leaders in Brook Park, Ohio.
“I’ve got to tell you, if that were me, I would say, ‘You know what, folks, I respect you a lot but close the doors, let’s get out of here,’ ” he added. “It’s a sign of such disrespect.”
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Obama, for his part, downplayed the incident and told the press not to “overcrank the significance of it.”
Meanwhile, another moment on Obama’s Asia trip got the full “overcrank” treatment from both the press and the Internet. After Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged icy looks upon meeting at the G-20 summit in China on Monday, their literal face-off was described by many as a “death stare.” A photograph of the moment sparked an intense Photoshop battle on Reddit.
But Obama’s trip wasn’t all death stares and stair snubs.
The president enjoyed some lighter moments at a luncheon with Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachit in Laos, where Obama was greeted by a military band and traditional dancers. After the meal, Obama, who is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Laos, accepted an invitation to join the young women, dressed in red and gold sarongs, in performing a traditional dance.
And for what it’s worth, Obama got his staircase in the end. Departing Hangzhou, China, he boarded Air Force One on what a pool report described as a “full-sized staircase, emblazoned with the name Hangzhou International Airport and snappy blue lighting under the railing.”