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A US -based human rights group says President Donald Trump should seek accountability and not offer to roll out the White House red carpet for Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, who the group accuses of being a mass murder "mastermind" amid the thousands of deaths in his anti-drug crackdown.

The White House statement included no criticism of Duterte's methods. "I did not realize how severe and how serious the drug menace was in this republic until I became president", said Duterte. "There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what's happening in North Korea".

"It doesn't mean that human rights don't matter", a Trump aide sought to clarify. A year ago he branded then United States president Barack Obama a "son of a whore" for criticizing the drug war. It denies Trump funding for his oft-promised wall along the U.S. -Mexico border, but gives him a down payment on his request to strengthen the military and money for border security measures.

For instance, he expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential campaign, hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House and has had warm words for Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom Trump is pressing to do more to rein in its ally and neighbor, North Korea. He urged citizens with guns to join the war against drug dealers by killing them.

Police have reported killing 2,724 people as part of the anti-drug campaign, although authorities insist the shootings have been in self-defense.

Kine said Trump may damage human rights by making overly friendly overtures to Duterte, who is facing a complaint for alleged mass murder before the International Criminal Court.

"The objective of this call is all about North Korea", Priebus told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "The issue on the table is North Korea".

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In the Philippines, Duterte's pledge to stop the country turning into a narco-state has proved wildly popular with millions of Filipinos looking for a quick solution to crime and corruption.

Relations between Duterte and former President Obama were strained during the last administration, with Duterte frequently insulting Obama's mother. And he often spoke warmly of President Vladimir Putin of Russia-until differences over Syria erupted.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) returns a salute from a Chinese naval officer (L) as Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (R) looks on during Duterte's arrival to visit the guided missile frigate Changchun berthed at the Davao global port on May 1, 2017.

The invitation for Mr. Duterte appeared to be the latest example of the affinity Mr. Trump has shown for some foreign leaders with shaky human rights or autocratic reputations.

Asked to explain Trump's statements, spokesman Sean Spicer said Sunday that under the current version people with pre-existing conditions who maintain coverage will not be impacted.

"Let us just say, he was wont to appreciate the gesture".