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Pentagon chief says Duterte Hitler remarks 'deeply troubling'

Pentagon chief Ash Carter has condemned comments made by Philippines President Duterte, in which he likened his war on drugs to Hitler's efforts to exterminate the Jews. Carter said the comparison was "deeply troubling."

Ash Carter and Delfin N. Lorenzana (Picture-Alliance/AP Photo/E. Tanner)

Pentagon chief Ash Carter with his Philippine counterpart Delfin N. Lorenzana

Speaking on the sidelines of a security summit with Southeast Asian nations in Hawaii, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter told journalists he had not yet discussed President Rodrigo Duterte's latest inflammatory statements with his Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana.

But "just speaking personally for myself, I find these comments deeply troubling," he said.

On Friday, the Philippine leader provoked an outcry from Germany when he drew parallels between his deadly anti-drug campaign and the Holocaust.

"Hitler massacred 3 million Jews ... there's 3 million drug addicts. There are. I'd be happy to slaughter them," he said, seemingly unaware that nearly 6 million Jewish people were killed during the Nazi's Third Reich.

"At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…" he added, pointing to himself.

War on drugs

Since taking office at the end of June, Duterte's war on drugs has claimed the lives of 1,247 suspects. The president has refused to back down or apologize for his violent policies, saying that scare tactics were necessary to solve the country's trafficking and drug abuse problems.

Carter, who is hosting defense ministers from 10 countries at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that the Philippines are a longtime US treaty ally. When asked his opinion on pursuing greater military cooperation with the Philippines in light of Duterte's comments, he said:

"Like all alliances, it depends on the continuation of a sense of shared interests. So far in US-Philippine history we have had that. We look forward to continuing that. But that's something that we continue to discuss with the Philippine government."

International outrage

The German Foreign Ministry released a statement Friday, blasting Duterte's remarks and requesting the Philippine envoy to "come to the ministry for a discussion on this issue."

"It is impossible to make any comparison to the unique atrocities of the Holocaust," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer in Berlin.

The World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder likewise labeled the Philippine leader's comments as "revolting," calling on him to apologize.

"Drug abuse is a serious issue. But what President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life that is truly heartbreaking for the democratically elected leader of a great country," Lauder said in a statement.

The Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, remarked it was baffling that someone would compare themselves to "one of the largest mass murderers in human history."

After just a few short months in power, Duterte has already become famous around the world for his inflammatory rhetoric - famously calling US President Barack Obama "a son of a whore" - though he later distanced himself from that comment. On Friday, however, he added more fuel to the fire by calling his critics in the European Union a "group of idiots in the purest form."

nm/rc (AP, AFP)

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