8 Sep 2016

PM will voice concerns over Philippines killings

9:04 am on 8 September 2016

Prime Minister John Key says he will not shy away from discussing extra-judicial killings in the Philippines when he meets the country's leader today at the East Asia Summit in Laos.

John Key arrives for a meeting at the East Asia Summit in Laos

John Key arrives for a meeting at the East Asia Summit. Photo: AFP

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has been heavily criticised, including by the UN, for his anti-drugs campaign that has led to the killing of 2400 suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines since he took office in June.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte Photo: AFP

Mr Duterte has also courted controversy with insults to other world leaders including a "son of a whore" jibe at US President Barack Obama. That led the Mr Obama to cancel a scheduled meeting with Mr Duterte but the pair later met briefly in Laos, easing tensions after the acrimonious fallout.

Mr Key said it had always been the New Zealand way to sit down and engage even when leaders disagreed and he would make his feelings about the killings in the Philippines clear to its president.

"We will be wanting to raise the particular issues that he has domestically, we will voice our concerns about these extra-judicial killings.

"We won't be holding back on our discussions in that area, but I don't think that's a reason to cancel the meeting - I think it's better to engage."

John Key, left, and Malcolm Turnbull meeting at the East Asia Summit in Laos.

John Key, left, and Malcolm Turnbull meeting at the East Asia Summit in Laos. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Meanwhile Mr Key and and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull renewed their BFF - best friends forever - status on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit.

Mr Turnbull upset some New Zealanders on social media last week when he said on Twitter that there could not be two countries with closer bonds than Australia and Britain.

But he and Mr Key greeted each other like old friends when they arrived in the meeting room and and the New Zealand prime minister was quick to bring up the Teresa May tweet.

"The New Zealand media have been trying to say you might not love me as much as Teresa May, and I was trying to say 'oh for gods sake, we're BFFs forever."

To which Mr Turnbull replied "Yeah we are, that's right, absolutely."

Malcolm Turnbull arrived at the summit fresh from the G20 meeting in China, and said that trade was a big issue there.

"The big theme there was how do we maintain public confidence in open markets, free trade, economic reform in the face of a rising tide of protectionism."

Mr Key said there was no surprise that protectionism was becoming a concern.

"In a world where you are seeing some of the rhetoric coming out of both of the candidates vying for the next president of the United States of America - it's a typical reaction when you see economic downturn, then you see some form of protectionism building up.

"From Australia and New Zealand's perspective, we've fought very hard to open up world markets."

Mr Key will also meet the Russian Prime Minister this afternoon, then visit a centre that specialises in training people to deal with unexploded bombs of which there are an estimated 80 million in Laos.

Mr Key will fly to Melanesia early tomorrow morning New Zealand time for the Pacific Islands Forum.

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