Duterte ‘a good man’ — POTUS
WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Donald Trump praised his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte over his immensely polarizing drug war, which has killed thousands of people, American media have reported.
During an April 29 call that focused mostly on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, Trump congratulated Duterte on doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
Trump also extended an invitation for “good man” Duterte to visit the White House “anytime you want to come,” before the two leaders are set to meet in the Philippines in November.
“Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said, according to a transcript made by the Philippine government and released by The Washington Post and The Intercept.
Duterte responded by saying drugs the “scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”
In an apparent dig at his predecessor Barack Obama – who had canceled a bilateral meeting with Duterte after the Philippine president insulted him – Trump then said: “I understand that and fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that.”
Police have reported killing about 2,700 people since Duterte took office at the end of June and immediately launched his war on drugs.
Unknown assailants have killed more than 1,800 others, while about 5,700 other violent deaths are under investigation, according to police data.
Partly in response to American criticism, Duterte has loosened the Philippines’ traditionally strong ties with its ally.
Duterte has instead embraced China, which has supported his drug war and sought to deepen economic ties by providing billions of dollars’ worth of investments and aid to the Philippines.
‘Kim a madman’
In the same conversation, Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a “madman with nuclear weapons.”
In the call, Trump hinted at a possible dramatic escalation on the Korean Peninsula.
“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 — but we don’t want to use it,” the US leader said, citing “two nuclear submarines” the Pentagon sent to the area last month.
Trump also queried Duterte about whether he believed Kim was “stable or not stable.” The Philippine leader responded that their North Korean counterpart’s “mind is not working and he might just go crazy one moment.”
Kim has a “dangerous toy in his hands that could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind,” he added.
But Trump appeared reassured that North Korea’s recent missile tests had failed, saying that “all his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news.”
Turning to China and its ability to counter the nuclear threat, Trump pressed Duterte to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert pressure.
“I hope China solves the problem. They really have the means because a great degree of their stuff come through China,” Trump said, adding: “But if China doesn’t do it, we will do it.”
Duterte agreed, saying “at the end of the day, the last card, the ace, has to be with China.”
However, he also cautioned, starkly, that “the other option is a nuclear blast, which is not good for everybody.”
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said it will clarify the source of the alleged transcript of conversation published by the Washington Post and carried as a story by The New York Times.
Foreign Affairs Spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said he was getting feedback from personnel of various offices, including Acting Assistant Secretary Marshall Louis M. Alferez of the Office of the America Affairs (OAA) who issued a memorandum on May 2, 2017 with the subject “Phone Call of the President with the POTUS.”
OAA is directly under the office of then acting secretary Enrique Manalo, who was replaced by Alan Peter Cayetano.