Washington DC, May 23 (EFE).- The President of the United States congratulated his Philippine counterpart for the “unbelievable job” his government has done in tackling the issue of drug trafficking and abuse during a telephone call in April.
Documents leaked by online news publication The Intercept on Tuesday purportedly show a transcript of the telephone call held on Apr. 29, in which Donald Trump told Rodrigo Duterte that he was calling “to congratulate” the Filipino leader of the “unbelievable job on the drug problem” that Duterte’s government had carried out since taking power in June 2016.
More than 7,000 people have reportedly died as part of the crackdown on the illegal drug trade.
While the rate of killings has eased slightly in recent months, Duterte told Trump that the drug problem continued to be “the scourge” of his country, and that he was compelled to act to “preserve the Filipino nation”.
Trump reassured Duterte that he understood the situation, and criticised his predecessor Barack Obama for not doing enough to tackle the issue.
“I understand that and I fully understand that and I think we had a previous President who did not understand that, but I understand that,” Trump said.
The phone call’s transcript was purportedly written by the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs on May 2, although the source of the leak is yet to be confirmed.
An epa reporter spoke to an anonymous Philippines Foreign Ministry official, who could not confirm nor deny the leak.
US media outlets, including the Washington Post, have said that an unnamed US government official confirmed the document was leaked by a foreign government.
In addition to praising Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign, which has been widely condemned by the international community, including the European Parliament and the UN, Trump also consulted the Filipino president on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Pyongyang’s recent spike in missile tests.
Trump asked Duterte if they were “dealing with someone who (is) stable or not stable”, to which the Philippine President replied “he is not stable, as he keeps on smiling when he explodes a rocket”, likening the North Korean leader to someone “laughing always, and there’s a dangerous toy in his hands which could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind”.
Trump reassured Duterte of the presence of US nuclear submarines in the region and other firepower that can act as a deterrent, but maintained that Kim “could be crazy so we will see what happens”.
The US president’s comments on Kim came just days before publicly saying that he would be “honored” to meet the North Korean leader, calling him a “pretty smart cookie” in a televised interview with CBS on Apr. 30.
The White House’s account of the phone call provided much less detail, stating simply that the two leaders had enjoyed “a very friendly conversation”, during which they discussed “regional security concerns of ASEAN”, including the North Korean threat.
Trump also extended to Duterte an invitation to the White House to discuss the “very positive direction” that the US-Philippines alliance was heading in, according to the White House statement.
Since taking power in June 2016, Duterte has attempted to strengthen bilateral relations with both Russia and China by signing military and economic cooperation agreements, while also criticizing Trump’s predecessor for his comments relating to Duterte’s crackdown on the narcotics trade.