States President Donald Trump invited President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House in a phone call late Saturday wherein the two leaders discussed security concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the threat posed by North Korea and the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said the phone conversation was “warm,” while a statement released by the White House said the discussion “was friendly.”
“The ambit of the conversation between the two leaders includes the expression of commitment of US President Trump to the PH-US alliance and his interest in developing a warm, working relationship with President Duterte,” Abella said in a statement.
“The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine President, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs,” he added.
The White House statement released by the Office of Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed Trump’s invitation and disclosed that the two leaders discussed the concerns of the Asean on regional security, the tensions raised by North Korea, and Duterte’s war on drugs.
“They 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. President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the US-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction,” the statement said.
The Palace and the White House did not say when the visit would take place.
“President Trump enjoyed the conversation and said 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.
The 31st Asean Summit and Related Meetings will be held from November 10 to 14 in Clark Field, Pampanga. Vice President Mike Pence last week confirmed that Trump will attend the Asean meetings as a sign of “unwavering commitment” to the region.
Abella said the two leaders are determined to strengthen the alliance between the Philippines and the US. The two countries signed a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1952.
Immediately after leaders of Asean concluded their summit in Manila on Saturday, Duterte said that he will urge Trump to exercise prudence in dealing with North Korea.
“Who am I to say you should stop but I would just say Mr. President please see to it that there’s no war because my region will suffer immensely,” Duterte said. “Everybody is worried.”
Trump has warned that the US will act unilaterally against North Korea if China fails to curb its neighbor’s activities.
“We have to caution everybody including those who’d give the advice to the two players because you have nuclear warheads to just show restraint,” Duterte said. “One miscalculation of a missile, whether or not a nuclear warhead or an ordinary bomb, one explosion there that would hit somebody would cause a catastrophe.”
Duterte has faced international condemnation because of his brutal campaign against illegal drugs, which has claimed thousands of lives. Last week, a case was filed against him and several members of his Cabinet at the International Criminal Court for alleged mass murder.
The President has lambasted the US for its “perceived hypocrisy” over human rights. Last year, he called former President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticizing the drug war. He took a conciliatory tone when Trump was elected to office.
Duterte’s pledge to stop the country turning into a narco-state has proved wildly popular with millions of Filipinos looking for a quick solution to crime and corruption.
Over the weekend, some Southeast Asian leaders attending a regional summit in Manila also expressed support for the drug war, including Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo.