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White House Defends Trump On Kim, Duterte Comments

The White House has defended President Donald Trump after he made a positive comment about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to Washington, D.C.

Trump described Kim in a May 1 interview as "a pretty smart cookie," according to Politico.

On April 29, Trump extended a White House invitation to Duterte, who has been accused of human rights abuses, including killings, as part of his war on drugs.

Around 7,000 people have been killed by vigilante groups and state-sanctioned death squads while Duterte has held power. In April, a Filipino lawyer filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing Duterte and 11 other officials of mass murder and crimes against humanity.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer supported Trump's remark about Kim.

"He assumed power at a young age when his father passed away. And there was a lot of potential threats that could have come his way, and he's obviously managed to lead a country forward, despite the obvious concerns that we and so many people have," said Spicer. "You know, he is a young person to be leading a country with nuclear weapons. And so that set aside, I think the president recognizes the threat that he posed and is doing everything he can to isolate that threat and to make sure we bring stability to the region."

Spicer also rejected the suggestion that Trump was unaware of Duterte's human rights record.

"I mean, the president gets fully briefed on the leaders that he's speaking to, obviously, but the No. 1 concern of this president is to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our people and specifically to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea," he added.

A readout of a conversation between Trump and Duterte on April 29 stated that the pair had a "very friendly" discussion and that U.S.-Philippine relations are "now heading in a very positive direction," Reuters reported.

Trump and Duterte spoke about "the concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regarding regional security, including the threat posed by North Korea."

The transcript referred to Duterte's drug war but did not mention any human rights concerns.

"They also discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries throughout the world," it noted.

Trump also promised to visit the Philippines in November, when he will be in the region for two summits with Asian countries. It is not clear when Duterte will visit the U.S.

Sources: Politico, Reuters via The Guardian / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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