WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump congratulated his Filipino counterpart during a phone call last month for doing “an unbelievable job” dealing with the drug problem in the Philippines, where the government’s efforts have included the extrajudicial killing of suspects.
A transcript of Trump’s April 29 conversation with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte was published online by The Intercept.
The two men spent most of their call talking about North Korea and its dictator, Kim Jong Un. But it began with Trump speaking enthusiastically about Duterte’s effort to beat back illegal drugs in his country.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job [you are doing] on the drug problem,” Trump said, according to a transcript from the April call.
“Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” he president said.
“This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation,” Duterte replied.
Trump said he fully understood, and added that he thought the U.S. “had a previous President who did not understand that, but I understand that and we have spoken about this before.”
Former President Barack Obama’s relationship with Duterte was stormy.
In October 2016, as the U.S. and Philippines were launching joint military exercises in Manila, Duterte threatened that it would be the last time his nation joined the U.S. for such maneuvers.
Duterte ended the announcement by telling Obama to “go to hell” and suggested that he would rather engage with Russia or China than retain any ties with the U.S.
Trump’s call to Duterte came as the leader was wrapping up dinner at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
Duterte told Trump that summit members were openly nervous about North Korea and the unpredictability of its leader, Kim Jong Un.
“What’s your opinion of him Rodrigo? Are we dealing with someone who is stable or not stable?” Trump asked.
“He is not stable, Mr. President, as he keeps smiling when he explodes a rocket,” Duterte said. “He has even gone against China, which is the last country he should rebuke. But it seems from his face he is laughing always and there’s a dangerous toy in his hands which could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind.”
Trump retorted that while Kim Jong Un “has got the powder” the leader “doesn’t have the delivery system” to make good on the threat of nuclear war.
Trump also pressed Duterte for his insight into China’s ability to control North Korea to which Duterte said that China was “the ace” to be used “at the end of the day” if needed.
Duterte further praised China’s “very important role” in North Korea. President Trump did not miss the opportunity to boast.
“We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines – the best in the world – we have two nuclear submarines – not that we want to use them at all,” Trump said. “I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this but he could be so crazy so we will see what happens.”
Trump assured Duterte that the U.S. would be able to “handle it,” when it came to Jong Un.
“Every generation has a mad man. “In our generation [it’s] Kim Jong Un – you are dealing with a very delicate problem,” Duterte said before asking Trump again to keep pressure on the North Korean leader.
“I hope China solves the problem. They really have the means because a great degree of their stuff comes through China. They are doing certain things, like not accepting calls. But if China doesn’t do it, we will do it,” Trump said.