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US President Donald Trump dodged questions about human rights abuses in the Philippines on Monday after he met with President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of an worldwide summit in Manila.

The Association for Southeast Asian Nations conference in Manila opened with a bass-thumping, pageantry-rich ceremony that included an unusual group photo of world leaders. For decades, the countries were strategic allies, although relations have deteriorated in recent years over allegations of human rights violations made by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, against Duterte and his government.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "human rights briefly came up", in the two leaders' discussions, according to CBS' Mark Knoller.

Trump's trip was meant to be centred on trade and North Korea, and on Monday, he will talk with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a bloody drug war that has featured extrajudicial killings. Trump has previously praised Duterte for his handing of the Philippines' drug problems.

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The instructions appeared to briefly confuse the US President, who used both of his hands to clasp the outstretched hand of Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc - leaving Duterte with a spare hand. Then, a couple of seconds and a few amusing faces later, Trump realized his mistake and switched his hands over to join in with the group shake. 'It's the ASEAN handshake: right hand over left'.

At the dinner, Duterte sang a hit Filipino love song, saying later it was "on the orders of U.S. President Donald Trump". At the opening ceremony in Manila, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said that the two days of meetings presented an excellent opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion on matters of regional and worldwide importance.

Hours before Trump's arrival in the country, riot police used water cannons to prevent hundreds of anti-American protesters from reaching the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

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