MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday revealed that his conversation yesterday with Chinese President Xi Jinping was made at the request of US President Donald Trump.
Duterte on Wednesday had a phone conversation with Xi, and one of the topics they discussed was the situation in North Korea. On Saturday, Trump phoned Duterte to discuss the same issue.
According to Duterte, he called Xi at the request of Trump, whose country has grown increasingly concerned about North Korea’s nuclear tests.
"I had a talk with President Xi Jinping yesterday because he (Trump) called four days ago to ask me if President Xi Jinping could do something about the situation regarding (North Korean president) Kim Jong-un,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.
"I called President Xi Jinping. I’m calling you at the behest of the President of the United States, President Trump.”
The United States has urged China, North Korea's only major ally, to do more to rein in its neighbor's nuclear and missile programs, which have prompted an assertive response from the Trump administration, warning that an "era of strategic patience" is over.
The Philippines, which in the past has largely stayed off issues on North Korea, is now finding its role in the Korean Peninsula’s affairs increasing because of the two leaders’ phone calls.
Duterte has urged the US and other Asian powers to go on easy on North Korea, which has rattled its neighbors, US allies Japan and South Korea, with its nuclear tests.
In his speech Thursday, Duterte said that China plays an important role in cooling down tensions in the Korean Peninsula, as Beijing is considered the closest and most powerful ally of Pyongyang.
“We all agreed in the ASEAN and even President Trump, that you can do something. Actually, the biggest contribution (out) of all the others is your intervention,” Duterte said, quoting himself during his conversation with Xi.
Duterte said, Trump has not yet called him to ask on what he and Xi discussed, “but if he called how did it go then I would tell him.”
The successive calls from the two most powerful leaders in the world have been seen as a testament to Duterte’s growing importance as a regional leader.
Since assuming presidency, Duterte has sought to improve Manila’s ties with Beijing which have been strained by the bitter South China Sea dispute.
Manila’s ties with Washington, on the other hand, deteriorated due to then-President Barack Obama’s criticisms of Duterte’s drug war. Trump’s election victory has been seen as a new chapter in the relations of the long-time Pacific allies. - with Reuters