Trump pledges US support to end violence in Myanmar
Posted November 14, 2017 12:54 p.m. EST
(CNN) — President Donald Trump addressed the humanitarian crisis roiling Myanmar on the final day of his trip through Asia, albeit during a closed-door lunch with fellow leaders at the East Asia Summit.
Remarking that "at least 600,000 people have fled their homes following attacks by vigilantes and security forces," Trump on Tuesday pledged US support for an end to the violence and the safe return of refugees, according to prepared remarks provided to reporters.
"The United States supports efforts to end the violence, to ensure accountability for atrocities committed, and to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of refugees. We welcome the commitments by the government of Myanmar, and we are ready to support the implementation of the (Rakhine) recommendations," Trump said according to the remarks, referring to the independent commission that recommended reforms to reduce tensions and stem the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
The prepared remarks were the only record of Trump having addressed the humanitarian crisis during his 12-day trip through Asia. The situation in Myanmar has led to allegations of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, who have fled Myanmar by the hundreds of thousands amid killings by the country's security forces.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to arrive Wednesday in Myanmar to push for an end to the violence.
Trump also continued to stress the need for the "total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," expressed concerns about "China's efforts to build and militarize outposts in the South China Sea" and said the US is closely monitoring the growing threat ISIS-affiliated groups are posing in Asia.
Trump's remarks during the closed-door lunch session of the East Asia Summit came on the final day of his swing through Asia, which he heralded as a success during a gaggle with reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday during his flight back to the US.
Trump said he believed he had "accomplished a lot" on the trip, saying he had "made a lot of great friends" and pointing to discussions with regional leaders on security and trade issues in particular.
"Very proud of it from a standpoint of security and safety, military -- very proud -- and trade," Trump said. "You will see numbers that you won't believe over the years. Because over a period of years, they will be treating us much differently than they have in the past."
Trump's sole remarks on the crisis in Myanmar came during his visit to the Philippines, where he largely skirted the issue of human rights in his meetings with the country's President Rodrigo Duterte, who has sanctioned the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users.
Before leaving Manila, Trump told reporters that he "could not have been treated nicer" in the Philippines' capital and noted that the relationship between his predecessor and Duterte "was horrible, to use a nice word."
"Now we have a very, very strong relationship with the Philippines, which is really important," Trump explained, "less for trade, in this case, than for military purposes. It is a strategic location -- the most strategic location. And, if you look at it, it's called the most prime piece of real estate from a military standpoint."
The White House said Monday that Trump and Duterte "briefly" discussed human rights during their private conversations, but a spokesman for Duterte said "human rights did not arise" during their meeting.
Trump also sought to push back on criticism that he had appeared too close to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing, arguing that the relationship is "important" but that they aren't necessarily "close."
"It's really a relationship based on respect. To me, a relationship based on respect is much more important than anything else, including friendship. Because this is really something -- they have to respect our country. And they have not respected our country for a long period of time," said Trump, who has previously touted his friendship with Xi.