PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived Tuesday on a state visit to Cambodia, where a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen will bring together two Southeast Asian leaders known for their tough-guy approach to governing.
The two leaders will witness the signing of memoranda of understanding on co-operation in sports and combating transnational crime. Their talks are also expected to touch on the South China Sea, where the Philippines has a territorial dispute with China, which is Cambodia’s closest ally.
Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III took a combative stand against Beijing, but Duterte has changed his country’s geopolitical orientation, seeking accommodation with China as he distances the Philippines from its traditionally close relations with the United States.
Before his departure from Manila, Duterte said his trip to the Philippines’ neighbours—he will go to Singapore after Cambodia—is in preparation for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit meeting which the Philippines will host late next year.
Since he became president at the end of June, Duterte has been directing a war on illegal drugs which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users. Hun Sen has led his country for three decades by directing violence and intimidation at his political opponents.
Duterte, accompanied on his trip by Philippine boxing star and Senator Manny Pacquiao, will also meet with King Norodom Sihamoni.