A leaked phone call transcript between the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, and President Donald Trump has revealed Trump’s attempt to reassure Duterte that he has the full military support of the United States with regard to the missile threat from North Korea. Trump also suggested that if China does not handle the Kim Jong-un “problem,” the U.S. was prepared to handle it with nuclear weapons, if need be.
Tensions have been mounting between the U.S. and North Korea for months, with belligerent political rhetoric coming from both sides, including from president-elect Trump and, after the inauguration, his administration, and the relationship between the countries seem to have become more strained in recent weeks as the Kim Jong-un regime has launched an unprecedented series of ballistic missile tests. While most of the missile tests have failed for various reasons, the number and flight trajectories of the missiles have caused worries to be voiced by other nations in the region, primarily those with ties to the U.S.
President Duterte expressed his concerns to Trump during the call, which took place in late April, telling Trump that the Philippines would not “feel safe” as long as “rockets and warheads were in the hands of Kim Jong-un.” According to the leaked phone transcript, which was supplied by The Intercept, Duterte admitted to Trump that he believes that Kim Jong-un was “not stable” after Trump asked his opinion. Duterte also noted that the North Korean leader was “from his face he is laughing always and theres [sic] as [sic] dangerous toy in his hands…”
President Trump told Duterte, “Well, he has got the powder but he doesn’t have the delivery system. All his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news. But eventually when he gets that delivery system…”
Left unsaid was the push by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to produce a workable ballistic missile that can accurately reach faraway targets like the mainland United States. At the same time, there are continuing fears that North Korea has already reached the capability of mounting a deliverable nuclear warhead to the missiles.
President Duterte, at one point, referred to Kim as “playing with his bombs, his toys from the looks of it, his mind is not working well and he just might go crazy one moment.” He then suggested that China “should make a last ditch effort to tell him to lay off” and noted that China would play an “important role” in resolving the nuclear weapons program impasse.
In his efforts to reassure Duterte that he had nothing to worry about, Trump next talked about American readiness in the region. He even suggested the use of nuclear weapons if the situation demanded it.
“We have a lot of firepower over there,” Trump said. “We have two submarines — the best in the world — we have two nuclear submarines — not that we want to use them at all. I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this but he [Kim Jong-un] could be crazy so we will see what happens.”
In another instance, Duterte, who himself has been condemned in his extreme way of dealing with the drug problem in the Philippines, made the observation that “every generation has a madman — in our generation is Kim Jong-un” and told Trump he must keep the “pressure” on North Korea. Trump assured Duterte that he would but his hope also was that China would play an integral role in finding a solution to the increasingly tense political situation.
Trump seemed to suggest the use of nuclear force against North Korea again later in the conversation, after Duterte mentioned his nation’s fear of being within “striking distance” of North Korean missiles.
“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that,” Trump said. “We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 but we don’t want to use it.” He added, “You will be in good shape.”
President Trump’s insistence that the U.S. will defend its (and the Philippines’) interests with nuclear weapons underlines the hard-line the Trump administration has taken against North Korea over its pursuit of an expanded nuclear weapons program. In April, according to the Inquisitr, Vice President Mike Pence reassured American allies in the region that the United States was ready to employ a preemptive military strike or retaliate with “overwhelming” force against North Korean aggression.
[Featured Image by Creative Lab/Shutterstock]