MANILA, Philippines (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump has called Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte and expressed Washington’s commitment to their treaty alliance and his interest in developing “a warm, working relationship,” a Filipino official said Sunday.
Presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said Trump mentioned he was looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to attend an East Asia summit that Duterte will host with several world leaders and that Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House.
“The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs,” Abella said in a statement.
There was no immediate reaction from White House officials on Abella’s description of the late-Saturday telephone conversation between the leaders.
Abella’s remarks reflect the friendlier attitude Duterte has taken with Trump versus the antagonistic stance he had toward President Barack Obama, who he once asked to “go to hell” for criticizing the Philippine leader’s bloody anti-drug crackdown. During Obama’s final months in office, the Philippine president moved to build closer economic ties with China and Russia while repeatedly threatening to end his nation’s longstanding military alliance with the U.S.
Duterte’s apparent dislike for Obama began when the U.S. State Department expressed concern over his drug war — which has left thousands of suspects dead — and asked Philippine government officials to take steps to stop extrajudicial killings.
At one point Duterte suggested he may even move to abrogate a 2014 defense agreement that allows U.S. military access…