MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday urged the United States to show restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of leader Kim Jong Un, who “wants to end the world”.
The notoriously blunt Duterte said the Southeast Asia region was extremely worried about tensions between the United States and North Korea, and said one misstep would be a “catastrophe” and Asia would be the first victim of a nuclear war.
The United States, Japan, South Korea and China, he said, were sparring with a man who was excited about the prospect of firing missiles.
Duterte is current chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and was due to speak by telephone to U.S. President Donald Trump later on Saturday. He said he would urge Trump not to get into a confrontation with Kim.
“There seems to be two countries playing with their toys and those toys are not really to entertain,” he told a news conference after the ASEAN summit in Manila, referring to Washington and Pyongyang.
“You know that they are playing with somebody who relishes letting go of missiles and everything. I would not want to go into his (Kim’s) mind because I really do not know what’s inside but he’s putting mother earth, the planet to an edge.”
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.
U.S. and South Korean officials said the test appeared to have failed, in what would be the North’s fourth straight unsuccessful missile test since March.
Duterte said it was incumbent upon the United States as the a responsible country to not rise to Kim’s provocations. He said he was sure Trump had cautioned his military not to allow the situation to spiral out of control.
“Who am I to say that you should stop? But I would say ‘Mr. President, please see to it that there is no war because my region will suffer immensely’,” Duterte said.
“I will just communicate to (Trump), ‘just let him play… do not play into his hands’.”
He added: “The guy (Kim) simply wants to end the world, that is why he is very happy. He is always smiling. But he really wants to finish everything and he wants to drag us all down.”
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ros Russell)