Duterte tells North Korean minister: 'We'd be good dialogue partner'
MANILA, Philippines – While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has not shied away from lobbing insults at North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, he was all warmth when he met North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho on Tuesday, August 8.
Duterte spent quite some time exchanging pleasantries with Ri, as he welcomed foreign ministers one by one, based on live video footage of the ceremony which took place at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
Towards the end of their interaction,the Philippine leader could be heard telling Ri, "We would be a good dialogue partner."
During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings this week, all eyes have been on Ri as representative of North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), given rising tensions due to the country's missile tests.
During the meetings, ASEAN foreign ministers agreed not to have bilateral meetings with Ri to express their grave concerns about the tests. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, as chairman of the ASEAN foreign ministers' meetings, was tasked to meet with Ri to hand him their joint statement on the issue.
Cayetano clarified that Duterte's warm gesture to Ri does not impact on ASEAN's stance on North Korea's missile tests.
By "good dialogue partner," Duterte supposedly meant this within the context of already existing mechanisms for ASEAN to communicate with North Korea.
"What I know, what the President told me is the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) is a good venue for everyone to dialogue and for us to hear out North Korea and hopefully they will listen," said Cayetano.
The ARF is an annual meeting of ASEAN and Asia-Pacific countries to discuss political and security issues. North Korea is a participant in the ARF.
Cayetano said Duterte's warm words to Ri are to be expected even if the Philippine leader has been less forgiving when talking about Kim.
"The President has harsh words against enemies of the state but he's willing to have peace talks," said Cayetano as an example.
"The President cannot deviate from the stance of the Philippines on what DPRK is doing but as I said, we're willing to do a peacemaking role," added the Foreign Secretary.
As ASEAN chairman, Duterte has "no choice" but to be diplomatic to all countries.
Duterte has been less than diplomatic, however, in public statements about Kim. Just last week, he called the North Korean leader a "maniac" with a "chubby face."
In the last ASEAN Summit, also held in Manila, Duterte described Kim as someone who "simply wants to end the world" with his "toys." – Rappler.com