The circulation of a transcript has revealed that in a call to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, U.S. President Donald Trump revealed that the United States has positioned nuclear submarines in Korean waters.
On May 23, The New York Times reported that a transcript marked as "confidential" had been circulated by the Americas division of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. The transcript was of a call that took place between Trump and Duterte on April 29. A senior administration official confirmed to The New York Times that the transcript was accurate but, because they were not authorized to discuss the call, spoke under the condition of anonymity.
During their discussion, one topic that the two leaders discussed was the situation in North Korea. Duterte reportedly told Trump that "as long as those rockets and warheads are in the hands of [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un we will never be safe as there’s no telling what will happen next." This led to a discussion of whether Kim is a stable leader, with Duterte expressing his opinion that he is not.
Trump tried to reassure Duterte, stating that Kim "has got the powder, but he doesn’t have the delivery system -- all his rockets are crashing." Trump then went on to boast about the presence of U.S. military technology in the region.
"We have a lot of firepower over there," Trump reportedly said. "We have two submarines -- the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all."
According to Reuters, the United States has sent the USS Carl Vinson -- a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier -- to waters near the Korean peninsula. It has joined a nuclear submarine, the USS Michigan, which was docked in South Korea in April.
Trump's talk with Duterte is not the only conversation with a foreign leader that has gained him attention during the past month.
On May 10, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, according to The Washington Post. Former and current U.S. officials have said that during the meeting, Trump discussed highly classified information with the Russian leaders regarding the Islamic State. In the weeks following the meeting, Trump has received criticism for his decision to do so.
Reuters reports that it is likely that Trump's conversation with Duterte will contribute to the already-existing questions about Trump's handling of state secrets.
In addition to North Korea, Trump and Duterte discussed other topics, among them the Philippines' drug problem. According to The New York Times, government-sanctioned attacks on drug suspects have been implemented within the country, and have resulted in extrajudicial killings that have taken place without arrest or trial. This program has received criticism from human rights groups and the U.S. State Department. Trump, however, was complementary of the country's methods.
"I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump reportedly said.