White House defends Trump's invite to Philippine President Duterte

Duterte is accused of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.

ByABC News
April 30, 2017, 10:47 AM

— -- White House chief of staff Reince Priebus defended President Trump's invitation to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, saying the meeting is important in the effort to confront North Korea's nuclear program.

“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what’s happening in North Korea,” Priebus told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on “This Week” on Sunday.

“If we don’t have all of our folks together — whether they’re good folks, bad folks, people we wish would do better in their country, doesn’t matter, we’ve got to be on the same page” on North Korea, Priebus said.

Karl noted that critics of Duterte say police and vigilantes in his country have killed thousands of people in their war on drugs, while the White House statement on Trump's phone call Saturday with Duterte praised the Filipino government for “fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”

Asked if the invitation to Duterte signals that human rights "don't matter" in Trump's foreign policy, Priebus said: "It doesn't mean that human rights don't matter, but what it does mean is that the issues facing us developing out of North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row.”

"The president's shown his willingness to stand up for human rights," Priebus added, citing the recent U.S. bombing of a Syrian airport in response to a government chemical attack on civilians as an example of Trump's taking action to defend human rights.

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