MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte called on President Donald Trump to be prudent in his handling of North Korea during an overnight phone call after an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Pasay City concluded on Saturday.
As ASEAN chair this year, Duterte talked during a press conference about what he planned to tell the U.S. president hours before they spoke. "Who am I to say that you should stop?" said Duterte rhetorically. "But I would say this: 'Mr President, please see to it that there is no war because my region will suffer.'"
The White House said the presidents discussed ASEAN regional security concerns, including threats posed by North Korea.
"President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction," the White House statement said.
Relations between the old treaty allies soured when President Barack Obama last year criticized Duterte's brutal war on drugs which has now left some 7,000 dead, according to human rights groups and media reports. U.S.-Philippine ties have improved since Trump took office in January.
"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," the White House said.
Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview on Thursday that a major conflict with North Korea could break out, but said he always hopes for a diplomatic solution. "There's a chance we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea," Trump said.
At his press conference, Duterte said the U.S. is the "more responsible country who wields the biggest stick". Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, has caused international concern, particularly in Northeast Asia, with further ballistic missile tests and his aim to establish the country as a nuclear power.
The North's most recent missile tests have been failures, but evidently timed to coincide with joint military maneuvers between the U.S. and South Korea.
"We know that they are playing with somebody who relishes letting go of his missiles and everything," Duterte told reporters. "The guy simply wants to end the world."
In the closing chairman's statement, ASEAN expressed "grave concern" over developments on the Korean peninsula, particularly in regard to the North's nuclear program and missile tests.
On Apr. 17, the regional grouping issued a similar statement following an unsuccessful missile test. ASEAN has called on North Korea to stop all violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and wants the peninsula to be nuclear free.