Tensions between the United States and North Korea have intensified, with the latter conducting another ballistic missile test Friday, just hours after the U.S. convened a United Nations meeting to demand more pressure on the isolated country.
President Donald Trump seemingly prioritized USA strategic interests over human rights by inviting a widely-criticized world leader from Southeast Asia - where the U.S.is vying with China for influence - to visit the U.S.
President Xi Jinping of China spoke by phone Wednesday (May 3) with the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, in what Chinese news media described as a friendly call that came just a few days after US President Donald Trump's amicable conversation with the authoritarian Filipino leader.
"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 said.
The White House said late Saturday that Trump had a "very friendly conversation" with Duterte.More news: Senate GOP examining ways to repeal ObamaCare insurance rules
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The White House has said that Trump wants to establish a relationship with Duterte because he may need his help in dealing with North Korea's nuclear threats. Police say they have killed only in self-defense, and the deaths of other drug dealers and users was down to vigilantes or narcotics gangs silencing potential witnesses. On Duterte's domestic front, Bayan, a leftist group called on Duterte to decline the invitation to the United States saying that the relationship between the two countries was heavily in favor of the US and the visit would do nothing to change the situation. "Things have changed. There's a new leadership".
In December, Duterte said that in a phone call, Mr. Trump praised his anti-drug crackdown.
"It doesn't mean that human rights don't matter", a Trump aide sought to clarify. "There can be joint exercises", said Duterte, who has scaled back regular war games with the United States.
Despite having competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, Duterte has said he prefers to forge closer ties with Beijing.
Duterte's White House welcome sounded an immediate alarm with the watchdog group Human Rights Watch, whose Asia division deputy director condemned the move in a blistering statement.
In August 2016, Duterte admitted to reporters that he gave a "shoot-to-kill" order in the Philippines war against drugs, which he says extended to anyone involved in drug trade, even politicians, the Los Angeles Times reported.