US President Donald Trump on Saturday invited his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte to Washington in a “friendly” call in which the leaders discussed the “threat” of North Korea, the White House said.
The announcement comes amid rising tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs following its latest test-fire, as well international criticism of Duterte’s drug crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives.
“It was a very friendly conversation, in which the two leaders discussed the concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regarding regional security, including the threat posed by North Korea,” the statement said.
The leaders also “discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries throughout the world.”
The Philippine president has relentlessly railed against criticism of his drug war, which Amnesty International and other rights groups have warned may amount to a crime against humanity.
Duterte last year branded then US president Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticizing the drug war, and more recently called European lawmakers “crazies” for issuing a statement condemning the killings.
The White House said Trump “enjoyed the conversation” and looks forward to attending the key US-ASEAN and East Asia summits in the Philippines in November.
“President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction.”
There has been concern about Duterte’s efforts to loosen the Philippines’ long-standing alliance with the United States as he looks to court China.
Vice president Mike Pence had announced earlier this month that Trump would attend the Asian meetings as a sign of “unwavering commitment” to the region.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman says US President Donald Trump has called the Philippine leader and expressed Washington’s commitment to their treaty alliance and his interest in developing “a warm, working relationship” with Duterte.
Presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said Sunday that Trump mentioned he was looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to attend an East Asia summit that Duterte will host with several world leaders. Abella said Trump also invited Duterte to visit the White House.
Abella’s remarks reflect the friendlier attitude Duterte has taken toward Trump versus the antagonistic stance he had toward President Barack Obama, who he once asked to “go to hell” for criticizing the Philippine leader’s bloody anti-drug crackdown.