Several Pentagon officials have anonymously expressed outrage over President Donald Trump's conversation with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Over the phone, Trump had disclosed to Duterte that the U.S. had deployed two nuclear submarines near North Korea.
On April 29, Trump called Duterte to congratulate him on his government's crackdown on narcotics. During their conversation, the two world leaders discussed how to contain North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's nuclear program.
On May 23, The Washington Post obtained a Philippines government transcript of the phone conversation. A Trump administration official confirmed the authenticity of the transcript, but refused to be named because the document was "a leaked document from a foreign government."
Duterte had expressed alarm over the progress of North Korea's ballistic missile program. Trump assured him that the U.S. would be able to swiftly retaliate against the regime.
"We have two submarines -- the best in the world," Trump told Duterte. "We have two nuclear submarines -- not that we want to use them at all."
The anonymous Trump administration official asserted that the president had discussed the U.S. capability against the Kim regime with Duterte because he was "rallying as much support as he can on North Korea... This is how he's trying to proactively manage a very difficult situation."
The anonymous Pentagon officials were distressed that Trump had disclosed the location of two U.S. nuclear submarines near North Korea. The U.S. military does not disclose the number of submarines they have deployed in a specified region, especially near a hostile country.
"We never talk about subs!" the three officials told Buzzfeed News.
Nuclear weapons policy analyst Stephen Schwartz told Business Insider that Trump's disclosure likely did not break protocol, noting that the president had not been specific about the exact locations of the submarines. Schwartz added that not even U.S. central command knows the exact locations of their nuclear submarines because the vessels "run silent."
Meanwhile, several lawmakers blasted Trump for congratulating Duterte on his administration's drug war.
Since assuming office, Duterte's government has killed 8,000 Filipinos without trial as part of its effort to crack down on drug use and trafficking. Despite this, Trump invited Duterte to the White House and told him "Keep up [the] good work, you are doing an amazing job."
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont condemned Trump's conversation with Duterte, asserting that it gave the Philippines president permission to continue carrying out human rights abuses.
"This sends a horrible signal to human rights violators all over the world, giving them a green light to increase their abuses,” Sanders told The Intercept. "Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with his comments about Vladimir Putin and in his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, enthusiastic praise for authoritarian leaders is the norm rather than the exception for this president."
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona expressed bafflement, stating "I don't understand why [Trump] would say such a thing to a guy who's practicing extrajudicial executions."