President Trump Invites Philippines’ Duterte to Washington

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. (Wu Hong/Reuters/Pool)

President Donald Trump invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House during a phone call on Saturday that also addressed concerns over North Korea, the White House said in a statement.

The White House gave no details of when the leaders would meet in Washington to discuss their alliance, but said President Trump looked forward to visiting the Philippines in November as part of two summits with other Asian nations.

A Filipino official said Sunday that President Trump expressed Washington’s commitment to their treaty alliance and his interest in developing “a warm, working relationship.”

Presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said President 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.

“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,” Abella said in a statement.

There was no immediate reaction from White House officials on Abella’s description of the late-Saturday telephone conversation between the leaders.

Abella’s remarks reflect the friendlier attitude Duterte has taken with President Trump versus the antagonistic stance he had toward President Barack Obama. During Obama’s final months in office, the Philippine president moved to build closer economic ties with China and Russia while repeatedly threatening to end his nation’s long-standing military alliance with the U.S.

Duterte suggested in a news conference Saturday that the Trump administration should back away from an intensifying standoff with North Korea, not in surrender, but to avoid risking a nuclear holocaust that could smother Asia.

“It would be good for America to just restrain a little bit and if I were President Trump, I’ll just back out, not really in surrender and retreat, but just to let the guy realize that, ‘Ah, please do not do it,'” Duterte said.

Washington, he said, should not play into the provocations of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“It behooves upon America, who wields the biggest stick, just to really be prudent and patient. We know that we are playing with somebody who relishes letting go of his missiles and everything,” Duterte said.