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Duterte won elections in May in a landslide after a campaign dominated by his pledge to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.
Carter is set to meet his Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana, in Hawaii on Friday, where the Pentagon chief is hosting an “informal” meeting for defence ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The defence official indicated he was confident America would retain its Asia focus whatever the election’s result.
“We’ve got a good thing going with the establishment of this principled, inclusive security network,” he said.
A key question will be future plans for America’s “rebalance” to Asia, during which Obama has tried to shift the US focus away from Middle East quagmires and toward rapidly growing Asia.
He has mended relations with Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos while bolstering regional blocs and providing a counterbalance to China’s regional ambitions.