In another departure from the Obama administration, President Donald Trump invited outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House during a “very friendly” phone conversation Saturday, the White House said.
Trump extended the invitation while the two leaders discussed North Korea and growing tension on the Korean peninsula.
While Duterte implored the United States to show restraint in dealing with North Korea, he has not shown restraint in his country’s bloody extrajudicial anti-drug crackdown. He has incited the deaths of more than 7,000 people accused of dealing or using drugs have been killed since he took office last year, Human Rights Watch reported earlier this year.
In September, Duterte even compared himself to Adolf Hitler. “Hitler massacred three million Jews,” he said. “Now, there are three million drug addicts [in the Philippines]. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
John Sifton of Human Rights Watch criticized Trump’s invitation as an endorsement of Duterte’s policies.
“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs,” he told the New York Times, “Trump is now morally complicit in future killings.”
Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said Trump’s call to Duterte was “all about North Korea,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Trump has been “speaking a lot to all our partners in southeast Asia,” Priebus added.
However, a spokesman for Duterte said Trump expressed his understanding of challenges facing his Philippine counterpart, “especially on the matter of dangerous drugs.”
After they spoke in December, Duterte said Trump lauded his anti-drug campaign as “the right way.”
Duterte told former President Barack Obama to “go to hell” after Obama criticized the Philippine leader’s drug war.
The White House said Trump will visit the Phillipines in November. There were no details on when or if Duterte will visit the White House.