US President Donald Trump invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House in a “friendly” phone call on Saturday, in which the leaders discussed North Korea and Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
According to AFP (via South China Morning Post), the White House released a statement about the call.
“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.”
It is currently estimated police and unidentified gunmen have killed more than 9,000 suspected drug users and dealers in Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown, a flagship policy for the firebrand leader. The brutal approach has drawn ire from rights groups and condemnation from western governments, with warnings it could amount to a crime against humanity.
Former President Barack Obama’s criticism of Duterte’s approach led to a cooling in relations between the longstanding allies. But that may be set to change under the Trump administration.
In a past phone call in December, Duterte said Trump had praised his controversial drug war claiming the then President-elect told him, “You’re doing great. I know what’s your worry about these Americans criticising you. You are doing good, go ahead.”
The White House gave no details of when the leaders would meet in Washington to discuss their alliance, but said Trump looked forward to visiting the Philippines in November as part of two summits with other Asian nations.