Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte says chat with Xi Jinping was at Donald Trump's request

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (above) spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding tension in the Korean peninsula during a phone call on May 3, 2017.
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (above) spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding tension in the Korean peninsula during a phone call on May 3, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (REUTERS) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday (May 4) his telephone conversation this week with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss the Korean peninsula crisis was at the behest of his United States counterpart Donald Trump.

Mr Duterte said he spoke with Mr Xi on Wednesday (May 3) to convince him to play a bigger role in defusing tension in the Korean peninsula after North Korea test fired another missile early on Saturday.

Mr Duterte discussed the North's test with Mr Trump later on Saturday (April 29), at the end of a summit in Manila of the Asean, of which he is chairman this year.

"So, I called President Xi Jinping, 'I am calling you at the behest of the president of the United States'," he said in a speech in his hometown in Davao City.

"'We have all agreed in the Asean and even President Trump that you can do something. Actually, the biggest contribution of all other is your intervention'," he said, recalling the conversation.

The US has urged China, North Korea's only major ally, to do more to rein in the North's nuclear and missile programmes, which have prompted an assertive response from the Trump administration, warning that an "era of strategic patience" is over.

"Definitely they are getting the help of everybody here,"Mr Duterte said, referring to US diplomatic efforts in Asia to contain North Korea.

Mr Xi and Mr Duterte spoke for about 26 minutes, a source at the Philippine president's office told Reuters, and exchanged views about regional developments and how some concerns could be addressed.

Mr Duterte said if asked by Mr Trump, he would happily relay what was discussed with Mr Xi.

The maverick and wildly outspoken Duterte has in the past week emerged as an unlikely collaborator in international efforts to prevent regional tension from escalating.

As Asean chairman, he last week said he would urge Mr Trump not to be provoked by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warning of a catastrophe if the situation intensified and that Mr Kim "wants to end to the world".

Mr Trump and Mr Xi have also formed a relationship lately that would have been unthinkable last year, when verbal attacks on China were central to the American billionaire's election campaign.

But Mr Trump has been criticised for going beyond the phone call to Mr Duterte and inviting him to the White House.

Mr Trump was condemned by human rights groups and some US legislators for what they see as tantamount to an endorsement of Mr Duterte's bloody war on drugs, which has killed thousands of people since he took office 10 months ago.