President Trump has invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. The invitation was issued during a White House telephone call to him discussing North Korea. Trump is scheduled to fly to the Philippines in November to meet with him in person. In an official statement by the White House, President Trump mentioned that he and the Philippine president had a “friendly discussion” Saturday that addressed security matters in that area as well as the war on drugs being spearheaded by Duterte. But there was no mention if the Philippine President would take him up on his offer.
I am sure there are some who will be raising their eyebrows about inviting someone like Duterte over his human rights abuses concerning his extrajudicial killings over his war against drugs back home, but at the moment the crisis with North Korea is taking center stage and will probably be expected to do so for the foreseeable future.
White House Chief of Staff supported the invitation, saying that outreach to the Philippines and other Asian nations is key to dealing with Pyongyang and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
The call to Philippine President Duterte during the last weekend in April was part of a series of calls not just to the Philippines, but also to Singapore and Thailand. Trump’s “America First” policy has raised some concern among members of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Trump’s policy has been interpreted in this area as a change in Washington’s relationships with ASEAN members. It has acted as an impetus for fostering closer relationships with neighboring China.
While the brunt of the meeting with Duterte’s White House visit would be discussing North Korea’s continual missile testing, human rights issues would also be discussed. Duterte’s controversial administration has come under fire for endorsing extrajudicial killings of citizens suspected of using or dealing in illegal drugs.