President Donald Trump has invited Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to the White House “to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance,” according to a White House readout of the leaders’ phone call on Saturday.
“It was a very friendly conversation, in which the two leaders discussed the concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regarding regional security, including the threat posed by North Korea,” said the readout. “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 readout continued, “President Trump enjoyed the conversation and said that he is looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to participate in the East Asia Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit.”
Duterte is a controversial and polarizing leader with a deadly and ruthless reputation. Since taking office last year, he has been outspoken in his support of extrajudicial killings of thousands of citizens accused of dealing or using drugs. His crackdown on suspected drug dealers and users has left nearly 2,800 people dead purportedly in gunbattles with police. Another 6,000 deaths are being investigated.
Duterte often raises eyebrows by making incendiary comments.
Last September, for example, he compared the Holocaust to his campaign to kill criminals.
“Hitler massacred three million Jews,” he incorrectly stated (in fact, 6 million Jews were killed). “Now, there are 3 million drug addicts [in the Philippines] … I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
And last year, after then-President Barack Obama criticized Duterte’s drug-fighting methods, the Philippine leader lashed out in a press conference, saying, “Mr. Obama, you can go to hell … I am the president of a sovereign country, and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people. Son of a b—-, I will swear at you,” Duterte said.
He has been more effusive about Trump, though.
At a press conference in Qatar earlier this month, Duterte compared himself to Trump, praising him as “a realistic and a pragmatic thinker.”
Duterte spoke positively about Trump’s desire to stop the illegal drug trade. “Look at his inaugural speech,” Duterte said. “He will stop drugs … We’re not different. He will really kill you.”