Trump invites Philippines' Duterte to Washington to develop ‘warm’ post-Obama relations

Trump invites Philippines' Duterte to Washington to develop ‘warm’ post-Obama relations
The US president has invited his Philippines counterpart to visit him at the White House to try and mend bilateral relations, which soured under the previous administration.

Donald Trump held a phone conversation with Philippines’ leader Rodrigo Duterte where they touched on regional security issues, including the ongoing Korean crisis, the White House said in a statement.

“President Trump enjoyed the conversation and said that he is looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November,” the readout said. “President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance.”

Duterte's team meanwhile said that during the “ambit” conversation Trump expressed his commitment to the bilateral “alliance” as well as “interest in developing a warm, working relationship with President Duterte.”

According to Duterte’s spokesperson Ernesto Abella, President Trump “likewise mentioned that he looks forward to his visit to the Philippines in November for the East Asia Summit.”

Trump’s phone call came at the close of the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila. While US-Philippines relations have been quite turbulent since Duterte assumed office last June, his attitude towards the new US leader differs drastically from the attitude towards the previous US President.

The Philippines’ strongman had repeatedly insulted Barack Obama, calling him a “son of a b*tch” and an “idiot,” while at the same time expressing his support and admiration for Trump, calling him a “pragmatic thinker.”

He also impersonated Trump on several occasions, citing last December's conversation between the two leaders, when Trump allegedly expressed support for Duterte’s actions, including his controversial war on drugs.

More than 8,000 people have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte started his drug crackdown after assuming office last June.

On Saturday, Trump once again cautiously signaled his support of the war on drugs, although not commenting on the methods used to tackle the problem of narcotics in the Southeast Asian country.

“They 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,” the White House said Saturday.

The conversation on Saturday came after Duterte urged Trump to show wisdom and restraint and avoid playing into the hands of North Korean leader amid heightened tensions and saber-rattling in the Korean Peninsula.