Duterte told Trump to ‘keep the pressure’ on N. Korea

Rappler Investigative Team

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Duterte told Trump to ‘keep the pressure’ on N. Korea
(UPDATED) A classified transcript obtained by Rappler via US-based The Intercept, shows that President Rodrigo Duterte views North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un as the 'madman' of this generation

This story was put together in partnership with The Intercept, which obtained the transcript of President Duterte’s April 29 phone conversation with President Trump and shared it with Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – While publicly calling on the United States and North Korea to “show restraint“, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked US President Donald Trump in private to “keep the pressure” on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

In a phone conversation with Trump last April 29 – a transcript of which was obtained by Rappler in cooperation with The Intercept, an award-winning digital magazine that has reported on classified documents – Duterte shared Trump’s disdain for Kim.

Duterte said Kim is a “madman” who is “laughing always”, has a “dangerous toy in his hands”, and can only be stopped by China, “the last card” to avert “so much agony and suffering for all mankind.”  

The “confidential” transcript revealed the views of Duterte and Trump on North Korea, and uncovered the complicated dynamics between the US, China, and the Philippines.

The authenticity of the document was confirmed by a Palace source. Names on the document were also confirmed by another source in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The transcript revealed the following: 

  • Duterte, in public, urges both North Korea and the US to “show restraint,” but in his private conversation with Trump, asked the US to “keep the pressure” on North Korea.
  • Duterte views China as having the ace against North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. 
  • Duterte, in public, claims that Trump asked him to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene in the Korean Peninsula crisis. The transcript showed that it was Duterte who volunteered to do this.
  • While the Philippine leader curses at the US in public, Duterte told Trump on behalf of ASEAN leaders, “We support you,” as they seek US intervention in the Korean Peninsula crisis. Trump pointed out “we are all counting on China” in dealing with North Korea.

Rappler is quoting verbatim from the transcript, keeping intact the errors in punctuation and spelling, which a Palace source described as “nothing extraordinary” – especially if done in a hurry. 

Assessing Kim Jong-Un

The transcript begins with Duterte thanking Trump for calling, and Trump saying he hopes it is not too late in the evening. It was around 10 pm on April 29.

Duterte replied it was all right, as he was just having dinner with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Trump said he knows Duterte doesn’t sleep much, “just like me.”

Trump proceeded to congratulate Duterte on his “unbelievable job” in the war on drugs. Duterte thanked Trump, calling illegal drugs “the scourge of my nation now.”

Trump said he understand this, and he thinks the US “had a previous President who did not understand that” – in reference to former US president Barack Obama, who criticized Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign.

According to the transcript, Trump then said, “So how is everyone doing, how is the Phls doing?”

This was where Duterte opened the topic of the Korean Peninsula, urging Trump to “keep on the pressure” on North Korea.

“We are doing fine Mr president but in the ASEAN summit every member state was really nervous about situation in Korean peninsula but we would like to tell you that we support you and keep the pressure because as long as those rockets and warheads are in the hands of Kim Jon Un we will never be safe as there’s not telling what will happen next,” Duterte said. (The transcript misspelled the name of the North Korean leader.)

Trump shot back, “Whats your opinion of him, Rodrigo? Are we dealing with someone who stable or not stable?”

Duterte answered: “He is not stable, Mr President, as he keeps on smiling when he explodes a rocket. He even has gone against China which is the last country he should rebuke. But it seems from his face – he is laughing always and theres as dangerous toy in his hands which could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind.”

Trump replied that Kim “has got the powder but he doesn’t have the delivery system.”

“All his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news,” Trump added, saying the problem is “when he gets that delivery system.”

Duterte: ‘The ace has to be with China’

The US president then asked Duterte about China. “Does China have power over him?”

Duterte replied: “Yes at the end of the day, the last card, the ace has to be with China. Its only China. He is playing with his bombs, his toys and from the looks of it, his mind is not working well and he might just go crazy one moment. China should make a last ditch effort to tell him to lay off. China will play a very important role there.”

Trump said the US has “a lot of firepower” in the region, including two nuclear submarines, “the best in the world.” He also said, “I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this but he could be crazy so we will see what happens.”

Duterte replied, “Every generation has a mad man – in our generation is Kim Jung Un – you are dealing with a very delicate problem.”

“We can handle it,” Trump said.

Duterte replied, “But you can keep the pressure on him.”

Trump said he hopes China “solves the problem.” He said China has the means “because a great degree of their stuff come through China.”

At this point, Duterte offers to call Chinese President Xi Jinping. “I will try to make a call to President Xi Jinping and I will try to tell him that if we will remain to be peaceful, China has the card. The other option is a nuclear blast which is not good for everybody.”

‘We are all counting on China’

Trump said of Xi, “You can tell him I am counting on him. I have a very good relationship with him. I had him in Florida for two days and got to know him well. He is a good guy.”

Duterte promised to call Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua to facilitate the phone call. “It will be good if you can keep on the pressure on Kim but actually we are all worried as we are all within the striking distance of his rockets. We are afraid,” the Philippine leader said.

Trump then told Duterte: “We cant let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 but we don’t want to use it. You will be in good shape.”

“We believe it, we know it all along,” Duterte said.

Trump replied, “Pls call China and tell them we are all counting on China. Tell the President – we became friends for two days – he was great.”


At this point, Trump shifted the conversation to their possible meeting either in Manila or Washington.

“Work it out with your staff,” Trump told Duterte. “Seriously, if you want to come over, just let us know.”

“Just take care of yourself, and we will take care of North Korea,” Trump said.

Duterte replied by saying he will relay his message to other ASEAN leaders.

“Thank you for the concern. God bless you Mr President,” Duterte said.

Trump answered, “Take care of yourself, Rodrigo. God bless you.”

Reacting to the transcript obtained by The Intercept, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday pointed out, “Under Philippine law, there is criminal and civil liability attached to the hacking, unauthorized disclosure, and use of illegally or inadvertently obtained confidential government documents.”

The DFA then pointed out that Duterte and Trump “have a good and warm working relationship,” and that the agency supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The agency ended its statement saying: “While we value the need for transparency and the people’s right to information, release of certain pieces of information, whether accurate of inaccurate, can affect national security and regional peace and stability.”

“As such, we appeal to the sense of responsibility and patriotism of all concerned,” the DFA said. – Rappler.com

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