United States President Donald trump made a "very friendly" phone call to Philippine President Rody Duterte on Saturday night. Trump even invited Duterte to visit the White House, a gesture that surprised Trump's aides and raised critics' eyebrows.

Internal objections to be raised

Trump's invitation to Duterte is expected to attract a wave of criticisms, particularly from human rights groups. The Philippine president has been accused of extrajudicial killings related to his "war on drugs" campaign. According to The New York Times, the State Department and the National Security Council are surprised by Trump's invitation.

Two high officials are expecting objections from these departments to be raised internally given Duterte's reputation.

It's all about North Korea

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said that Trump's move to reach out to Duterte is all about the tensions with North Korea, and Trump has been speaking to all its partners in Southeast Asia. Prime ministers of Singapore and Thailand also received White House invitations after Trump spoke with them. Inviting Duterte is not an approval of his methods in dealing with drugs in his country, Priebus added, as reported by LA Times.

The move is also a strategic decision for Trump, as Duterte has distanced from the United States. Duterte previously threatened to end the long-time relationship between the US and the Philippines and cut their military agreements.

Trump administration officials said the US president wanted to mend the two countries' alliance.

Duterte appeals to Trump not to go to war

President Duterte said that the call was set to talk about North Korea's nuclear program and the tension it creates with the US. Speaking at a press conference after the ASEAN Summit, Duterte said he would appeal to Trump not to go to war with North Korea.

He would ask him to keep restraint and ensure that there would be no war because the region will greatly suffer, being very near to the Korean peninsula.

According to CNN Philippines, ASEAN foreign ministers have expressed concerns over Pyongyang's nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches while North Korea reportedly asked Lê Lương Minh, ASEAN secretary general, for support to prevent "a nuclear holocaust." Duterte said both the US and North Korea should practice restraint. Otherwise, everyone would suffer and it could mean the end of the world.