Sometime during the 30th ASEAN Summit Gala Dinner on Saturday, a telephone call was received by the host, President Rodrigo Duterte.
It was United States President Donald Trump, who was calling to personally express his commitment to the PH-US alliance and his interest in developing a warm, working relationship with President Duterte.
Trump also took the pro-active step of issuing an invitation in person, not via the usual pro-forma missive, for Duterte to visit the United States, in what the White House described was a “very friendly” phone conversation.
“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what’s happening in North Korea,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s “This Week” television program, alluding indirectly to criticisms of the human rights record of the Duterte Administration in the wake of a ruthless anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Priebus insisted the outreach to Duterte “doesn’t mean that human rights don’t matter, but what it does mean is that the issues facing us developing out of North Korea [and its belligerent ballistic missile tests] are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row.”
For his part, President Duterte, at a Saturday press conference, expressed that “the countries of ASEAN are extremely worried. It seems to be … two countries are playing with their toys and those toys are not really to entertain.”
Duterte said he conveyed to Trump: “Mr. President, you have the persuasive power. I don’t think you can scare Kim Jong Un with firepower.”
President Duterte also told journalists in passing that “Our greatest chance of getting some dialogue with America and North Korea would be through the intercession of China.”
Click and view the video clip of President Duterte’s pronouncement below: