Duterte: Chat with Xi was at Trumpâs request
President Rodrigo Duterte revealed details of his high-level talks with US President Donald Trump, which also prompted his conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping the other day.

Duterte: Chat with Xi was at Trump’s request

Christina Mendez, , Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2017 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY , Philippines  – President Duterte seems to be emerging as a go-between the world’s two most powerful leaders, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Duterte said he mentioned Trump in his telephone conversation with the Chinese leader.

“So I called President Xi Jinping, I said ‘I am calling you at the behest of the President of the United States, President Trump’,” Duterte told the gathering of the Philippine Orthopedic Association here yesterday.

Duterte said he is still waiting for Trump to call up again after he spoke with Xi on Wednesday. 

“And we are all agreed in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and even President Trump that you can do something. Actually, the biggest contribution of all… is your intervention,” Duterte said, giving a hint of what he discussed with Xi the other day.

Trump called up Duterte last Saturday to discuss in particular the deteriorating situation in the Korean Peninsula.

“I am not at liberty to talk about it because I have to convey my message and President Trump has not called me yet,” he said. 

Duterte revealed details of his high-level talks with Trump, which also prompted his conversation with Xi the other day.

It was apparent that Trump has called on Duterte to intercede in easing tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

He added the matter concerns the moves of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has ordered the launch of missiles in recent weeks that agitated the US.

Duterte said he relayed Trump’s message to Xi in a phone conversation last Wednesday, barely four days after he spoke with the US leader at the end of the 30th ASEAN summit in Manila. 

He said Trump wanted Xi to have a talk with the North Korean leader to defuse tension in the region.

Last Saturday, Duterte echoed the “serious concern” of the 10-member ASEAN bloc about the developments in North Korea. He also called on the US to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation, adding that the world does not need another war breaking out.

Duterte stressed the seriousness of the Korean issue and said it would be important to tap everybody’s help, including China.  

“And definitely we are getting the help of everybody here and President Trump,” he added. 

In the 26-minute phone call, Duterte discussed with the Chinese leader the Asian giant’s important role in promoting peace in the Korean Peninsula. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs also said Duterte mentioned what the ASEAN agreed on as a bloc in promoting unity, centrality and solidarity, as well as in promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

Despite international pressure, North Korea had another missile test last weekend, but it failed. The missile blew up over land in North Korean territory.

Duterte, however, said his conversations with Trump and Xi were recorded. 

“It is recorded. I know that they are recording it. You want to hear the recording? I would be happy to make it public,” Duterte told the crowd.

He said he has to tell the White House what transpired in his conversation with Xi.

“But of course China was listening. Of course Russia was listening. Everybody was listening. Even now I know China is listening,” he said. 

Duterte claimed former US president Barack Obama had chastised him, compared to Trump who respects him. 

“And here comes Trump saying ‘you are doing all right, you are doing fine…’ So, where do I go from here, to Obama or Trump?” Duterte remarked as he began singing the tune “Where do I go from here” from the musical “Evita.”

Key player

Ten months into office, Duterte seems to have transformed from a foul-mouthed leader to a statesman following calls from the leaders of the world’s two superpowers.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella talked about the “metamorphosis” of Duterte from a brusque leader to a statesman in a press briefing yesterday. 

He also underscored how Duterte is playing a key role in establishing peace and security in the region despite the conflict at the South China Sea.

“Definitely, it goes to show that the President is being recognized for his leadership in the area, and I think the locals should also show better appreciation of their own President,” Abella said.

Trump and Xi called Duterte on the phone, four days apart, about the concerns raised by the 10-member ASEAN bloc on developments at the Korean Peninsula. 

Malacañang added both leaders were concerned about recent regional developments.

“Definitely, it indicates statesmanship, that he’s actually a key player in maintaining peace in the region,” Abella said.

“As the President of the United States said, the Philippines is key right now in the region,” he said.

It was Trump who initiated the call to Duterte last Saturday, which came shortly after the Chief Executive concluded the 30th ASEAN summit and held a gala dinner for the visiting leaders and other officials.

In his conversation with Xi, Malacañang and the DFA said Duterte shared the Philippine positions on several salient issues, especially on developments in the Korean Peninsula. 

He also referred to China’s important role in promoting peace in the Korean Peninsula and the need to further strengthen ties with ASEAN’s dialogue partners that included China, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Abella was quick to clarify that the basis of the Chinese leader’s call was as an aftermath of the ASEAN summit, not in response to Trump.

“But you know, again, this is all part of – within the context of the ASEAN thing also. It’s not just a direct response or a direct reaction to the call from another leader,” he said.

“But basically it was an assessment. I think it was a friendly call to have a friendly assessment regarding the happenings in the region especially immediately after the ASEAN meetings.”

An article of the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua posted in the Chinese embassy website said Xi welcomed Duterte to attend the upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held on May 14-15 in Beijing.

The article said Xi looks forward to meeting the Philippine president again.

Duterte said he looks forward to attending the upcoming forum in Beijing.

“For his part, President Duterte shared Philippine positions on several salient issues, especially on developments in the Korean Peninsula, and he referred to China’s important role in promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the DFA said.

The ASEAN went easy on China by adopting a Philippine-backed watered-down version of a statement dropping references to Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.

The statement issued at the end of the 30th ASEAN summit, released Sunday, made no mention of China’s “land reclamation and militarization” and the arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines.

The Duterte factor

 As far as National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is concerned, the phone calls by the two powerful leaders indicated how they also want to strike alliances with the Philippines.

Esperon added Duterte is on the right track of having opened the bilateral channels with China rather than invoking the ruling of the arbitration tribunal on the South China Sea dispute.

“There are bigger things than quarreling… meaning the Philippines, the United States needs the friendship of the… China and Xi Jinping… President Duterte and Xi Jinping have their own interactions. Trade, commerce…” Esperon said.

He also revealed Duterte and Xi have agreed to have open doors on consultation regarding issues about the South China Sea.

“By the way, when we went to China last October, we established what we would call the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism on the South China Sea,” Esperon said.

He added the group would be meeting again during the President’s visit in May for the Belt and Road forum.

“This means that’s our way now into getting into talks with them. No threatening… we have a mechanism for this,” he said.

Esperon said there is also an agreement between the coast guards of both countries to avoid military confrontation in the South China Sea.

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