Philippines' Duterte Says Call to Chinese Leader 'at the Behest' of Trump

By Jake Maxwell Watts Features Dow Jones Newswires

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he called Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss North Korea "at the behest" of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Continue Reading Below

During an event in his hometown of Davao City, Mr. Duterte said Mr. Trump had asked for his help to put pressure on China, Pyongyang's only major ally, to take action against the belligerent regime.

"I called President Xi Jinping [and said] I am calling you at the behest of the president of the United States," Mr. Duterte said, referring to a phone call that took place on Wednesday. "We are all agreed in [Southeast Asia] and even President Trump that you can do something" about North Korea, he said he told the Chinese leader.

Chinese officials couldn't be reached for comment late Thursday.

In Washington, a senior administration official, describing an April 29 conversation between the U.S. and Philippine leaders, said Mr. Duterte made the offer to talk to Mr. Xi, and that Mr. Trump agreed it was a good idea and urged him to follow through.

Mr. Duterte said during his speech on Thursday that he was happy to relay the contents of his call with Mr. Xi to Mr. Trump if the U.S. president asks. He said he and Mr. Trump "are definitely getting the help of everybody here."

Continue Reading Below

Mr. Trump has made curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions one of his cornerstone foreign policies since coming to power at the beginning of the year. Mr. Trump has called North Korea a severe threat to the U.S. and other nations, and has been reaching out to longtime allies in Asia, including the Philippines for help in isolating Pyongyang.

Over the weekend, the leaders and foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in Manila, during which North Korea was extensively discussed. The Southeast Asian nations could help Mr. Trump in a part of Asia where United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs have been inconsistently enforced, according to North Korean sanctions experts.

There are signs Beijing has been ramping up its pressure on the regime already, after years of relatively friendly ties since soon after World War II. In February China suspended coal imports from North Korea, and recent articles in two official Chinese publications apparently alluded to the possibility of Beijing confronting North Korea militarily, or ending friendly ties between the two neighbors and Cold War allies, if it didn't halt its weapons programs.

The articles drew sharp criticism of China from North Korea, which slammed Beijing's "insincerity and betrayal" in a commentary published late Wednesday.

Last month, Mr. Trump met Mr. Xi at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where Mr. Trump says that he offered China more favorable trade terms in exchange for help on confronting the threat from North Korea.

Carol E. Lee in Washington contributed to this article.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at jake.watts@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 04, 2017 11:36 ET (15:36 GMT)