President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte spoke on the phone yesterday to affirm the two countries' "warm, working relationship". The call was made after the conclusion of Manila's hosting of the 30th ASEAN Summit, and also marked Trump's 100 Days in office.
The Philippines is one of Washington's oldest and closest allies in Asia, and the call made by Trump to Duterte reportedly expressed the commitment of the U.S. to their treaty alliance. The two countries have a long-standing mutual defense agreement that calls for each other's help and support in times of external threat or a looming war. Presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said for the Philippines part that Trump confirmed his visit to the country in November to attend an East Asia summit which Manila is hosting. It would be Trump's first visit to the Philippines as the new President of the U.S.
Abella also said that Trump extended a warm invite to Duterte to visit the White House. No other details were shared yet regarding the invite. Abella described the conversation between the two leaders as "warm", and that Trump expressed understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matters of dangerous drugs.
The White House also came out with a statement that described the call as "very friendly" and said that the U.S.-Philippine alliance " is now heading in a very positive direction". The U.S. and The Philippines have a long tradition of warm and close ties, but last year such relations suffered some strains when then newly-elected Duterte spoke harshly against outgoing President Barack Obama. Duterte reportedly found Obama's remarks against his controversial "war on drugs" as offensive. Duterte, however, quickly had good words for Trump when he won and even said he finds many similarities between him and the 45th President of the U.S.
During the time that Duterte was said to be upset with Obama, the straight-talking leader also threatened to unilaterally cut his country's close ties with the U.S., even though consistent surveys say the Filipinos love the U.S. most, and turning to a neighbor and one-time adversary, China instead. Duterte made good on his promise to strike better relations with China, but has abandoned his threats against the U.S. He even said after the election in November last year that he would stop cursing the U.S. since "Trump had won already."
Abella also admitted that Trump and Duterte
discussed about North Korea, but did not give further details. It was reported earlier that North Korea asked for the backing of the ASEAN in its conflict with the U.S. The regional bloc meeting in Manila, however, rejected Pyongyang's appeal and instead expressed grave concern over North Korea's nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missiles launches. The ASEAN also called on their fellow Asian country to "fully comply" with the U.N.Security Council's resolutions and international laws.
Before the call of Trump, Duterte told the media attending the ASEAN Summit that while he is not in a position to give advice to Trump, he would caution him not to play into the hands of North Korea's barbaric leader, Kim Jong-Un. Duterte said that the ASEAN was extremely worried about the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, as he thinks one misstep would be a "catastrophe", and Asia would be the first victim of a nuclear war. Duterte also said that U.S., Japan, South Korea and China are sparring with Kim who is even excited to fire missiles. He said that Kim simply " wants to end the world", that is why he is very happy. He said Kim is always smiling these days because he is getting so much pleasure from all the troubles he is causing. Duterte said Kim seems bent on "finishing everything" and wanting to "drag us all down".