Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday called North Korea’s leader “crazy” for pushing the isolated communist state’s nuclear ambitions, days before diplomats from around East Asia and beyond are to converge in Manila for a regional meeting.
In expletive-laced language, Duterte accused Kim Jong Un of “playing with dangerous toys” that endangered the entire region, referring to recent missile tests by the Pyongyang regime that have drawn international condemnation.
“That crazy leader. He has a chubby face which looks kind. But son of a bitch, he is a maniac,” Duterte said in a speech to tax officials. “If he makes a mistake, then the Far East will become an arid land.”
He added: “A nuclear war must be stopped because [if we have] a limited confrontation and it blows up, I tell you, the fallout could deplete the soil and its resources.”
Duterte is known for a blunt and undiplomatic style, and using foul language to attack leaders of other countries. Last year, he called U.S. President Barack Obama “the son of a whore.”
Duterte’s comments against Kim came shortly after United States criticized Pyongyang for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 29, which heightened fears in Washington that North Korea was on track to develop nuclear weapons that could reach the mainland U.S.
Last week, according to Filipino diplomats, a North Korean delegation secretly visited Manila in preparation for an upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in the Philippine capital.
Duterte is this year’s chairman of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which will mark its 50th anniversary on Aug. 8.
Next week, the Philippines will host meetings of ASEAN foreign ministers as well as the ARF, which brings together 27 countries. Apart from all members of the ASEAN bloc, the ARF includes the United States, North Korea, China and other countries.
In May, the Philippines said it supported calls for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and encouraged Pyongyang and Seoul to “continuously engage in peaceful dialogue.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is scheduled to attend the meeting in Manila, said the North Korean threat had “materialized in the ways that we expected it would.”
“We initiated a sustained and continued intensified campaign on what I like to call peaceful pressure, because the options available to us, I think as all of you well understand, are limited, and particularly if we think we are operating under a short period of time,” Tillerson said.
He said the U.S. was seeking to pressure North Korea’s regime peacefully, but he emphasized that Washington would never allow it to have the ability “to deliver those nuclear weapons to anyone in the region, much less to the homeland.”