President Donald Trump congratulated his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, during a phone call last month for doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem” in the Philippines, where the government has sanctioned the extrajudicial killing of suspects.
A transcript of the April 29 conversation published online by The Intercept and reported by multiple media outlets, including The New York Times, comes from the Office of American Affairs in the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs. The transcript is preceded by a coversheet marked “confidential” that lays out security procedures for the document.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte, according to the transcript. “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.”
As indicated by the State Department’s 2016 Human Rights Report, which was last updated in March, police and vigilantes in the Philippines had killed more than 6,000 suspected drug dealers since July, the month after Duterte took office. An “apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process” was among the State Department’s “most significant human rights problems” in the Philippines.
While Trump started his conversation with Duterte by congratulating him on his approach to dealing with his nation’s drug problem, the two men spent the bulk of their call discussing North Korea and its dictator, Kim Jong Un. Duterte told Trump that Kim is “not stable” and that he seems to be “always laughing” when he has a “dangerous toy in his hands which could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind,” a reference to North Korea’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon and a missile capable of delivering it.
Trump disclosed that the US has stationed two nuclear submarines in the area, which he called “the best in the world,” but cautioned that he did not want to have to use them.