U.S. President Donald Trump has invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Washington to discuss various issues, including the threat North Korea presents to regional security.
After the two spoke by phone Saturday, a White House statement said, “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.”
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile early Saturday north of the capital, Pyongyang. Both Washington and Seoul said the test was not successful, but still drew widespread international condemnation.
Pope Francis said Saturday the nuclear crisis in North Korea has “heated up too much,” and he warned that a war with the isolated nation would destroy a good part of humanity. The pope suggested Norway as a mediator of the crisis.
“Norway is always ready to help,” he told reporters onboard his papal plane.
South Korea said Sunday Washington has confirmed it will indeed pay the costs for the THAAD anti-missile system, despite President Trump’s remarks last week that South Korea should shoulder the costs.
Officials in Seoul said H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, assured his South Korean counterpart in a telephone conversation Sunday the U.S. is still onboard to pay for the THAAD system that is designed to defend against nuclear-armed North Korea.
Trump threw confusion into the existing payment agreement with South Korea when he told Reuters last week he had informed South Korea, “… it would be appropriate if they paid. It’s a billion-dollar system.” Trump said, “It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky.”
Trump’s White House invitation to Duterte is somewhat surprising. The Philippine president has made several derogatory comments about the U.S. in recent months.
He has also been fanatical about making the Philippines drug-free, with police reported killing 2,724 in the president’s drug campaign. Human Rights Watch, however, says since Duterte came into office in June 2016, police and unidentified gunmen have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers.
A Philippine lawyer filed a complaint last week with the International Criminal Court, accusing Duterte of mass murder in his drug campaign.