Trump administration defends inviting Duterte to Washington

  • 01/05/2017
Rodrigo Duterte (Reuters)
Rodrigo Duterte (Reuters)

The White House has defended President Donald Trump's decision to invite controversial Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to Washington, saying his cooperation was needed to counter North Korea.

It comes as the administration faces human rights criticism for its overture to Manila.

Mr Trump issued the invitation on Saturday night in what the White House said was a "very friendly" phone conversation with Mr Duterte, who is accused by international human rights groups of supporting a campaign of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines.

"There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what's happening in North Korea," White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC's This Week during a weekend in which Mr Trump sought to firm up support in Southeast Asia to help rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Mr Priebus insisted the outreach to Mr Duterte "doesn't mean that human rights don't matter, but what it does mean is that the issues facing us developing out of North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row".

Mr Duterte has warned the US against playing into North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's hands.

"The guy (Kim) simply wants to end the world, that is why he is very happy. He is always smiling. But he really wants to finish everything," Mr Duterte said at the weekend.

Mr Duterte last year compared himself to Adolf Hitler, saying he was "happy" to exterminate drug users, like Hitler did to millions of Jews.

Reuters / Newshub.