- US President Trump has ‘enjoyed’ a telephone conversation with Philippine President Duterte, inviting him to the White House.
- Duterte is known for backing extrajudicial killings in his “war on drugs”, calling then acting President Obama a ‘son of a bitch’, and declaring the Philippines’ realignment with China.
- According to Trump’s Chief of Staff Priebus, the call which raised eyebrows was all about North Korea.
- Trump has also called and invited to the White House the leaders of Thailand and Singapore.
The rather controversial President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has been invited by US President Donald Trump to visit Washington, D.C.
In October 2016, on a trip to China, Duterte made global headlines when he announced the Philippines’ “realignment” with China, and “separation” from long-time ally America.
Even though while in China he said “America has lost” and he had realigned himself with China’s “ideological flow”, he later clarified he wanted for the Philippines a “separation of foreign policy” from the US.
All or parts of the islands and territorial waters in the South China Sea are disputed by China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei.
Regardless of his “realignment with China”, Duterte recently ordered the Philippine military to occupy uninhabited islands and shoals in the South China Sea which were already under Philippine jurisdiction.
Duterte, who took power in the Philippines in June 2016, has been widely criticized internationally because of his human rights record.
He has openly abetted the extrajudicial killings of thousands of citizens suspected of dealing or using drugs. About 6,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the first 6 months of his war on drugs, some 7,000 overall.
In December, he admitted to have had suspected criminals killed when he was mayor of Davao City.
He has compared his war on drugs to the Holocaust and said he would be “happy to slaughter” as many as 3 million drug addicts.
In the fall of 2016, Duterte also described then US President Barack Obama as a “son of a bitch”, which caused the Obama Administration to cancel bilateral talks.
Former President Obama has criticized the Philippine leader for his alleged human rights abuses which is why Trump’s seemingly cordial exchange with Duterte could face major criticism.
‘Very Friendly Conversation’ in ‘Very Positive Direction’
US President Donald Trump had a “very friendly” telephone conversation with Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, the White House announced.
“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 White House said in its statement.
According to the announcement, Trump and Duterte also discussed “the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs”.
“President Trump enjoyed the conversation and said that he is looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to participate in the East Asia Summit and the US-ASEAN Summit,” the White House said.
Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss “the importance of the the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction.”
Duterte had his phone call with Trump on the sidelines of a gala dinner the Philippine leader hosted for the heads of state from the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member countries at the Sofitel in Pasay City, south of Manila.
Trump’s extension of a visit invitation to Duterte spurred questions about whether the White House should extend a visit to a leader who has been much criticized for alleged human rights abuses, such as extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s war on drugs, CNN commented.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, however, has argued that the US needs the Philippines as part of a broader coalition to deal with the nuclear threat posed by the regime of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
“The purpose of the call is all about North Korea. There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what’s happening in North Korea,” Priebus said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”.
“If we don’t have all of our folks together, whether they are good folks, bad folks, people that we wish would do better in their country – doesn’t matter. We’ve got to be on the same page,” the White House Chief of Staff argued.
Priebus did not specify how much sway with North Korea Philippine President Duterte has, if any.
Thailand and Singapore
On the same day that US President Trump had his “very friendly” conversation with Philippine leader Duterte, he also talked on the phone with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha of Thailand and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore.
According to the White House, Trump and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha underscored their commitment to the longstanding alliance between the United States and Thailand.
In his conversation with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Trump agreed the bilateral partnership was “marked by thriving trade and investment, robust security cooperation, and close collaboration on regional and global challenges.”
In addition to Duterte, Trump has invited both Thai Prime Minister Prayut and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee to the White House.