Priebus stresses N. Korea in defense of Duterte call

Priebus stresses N. Korea in defense of Duterte call
© Greg Nash

White House chief of staff Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusBannon: Sessions an 'excellent' AG, Trump 'wrong' about recusal GOP lawmakers, top advisers have campaigned to stop Trump from firing Sessions: report Exclusive: Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired 'very shortly' MORE on Sunday defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday Shows preview: Lawmakers, Trump allies discuss Russia probe, migrant family separation Seth McFarlane: Fox News makes me 'embarrassed' to work for this company  'Art of the Deal' co-author: Trump would act like Kim Jong Un if he had the same powers MORE’s phone call with President Rodrigo Duterte, arguing cooperation with the Philippines is necessary to counter North Korea.

“The purpose of the call is all about North Korea,” Priebus told ABC’s “This Week.”

Priebus insisted that communication with Duterte is necessary, despite human rights abuse accusations against the Philippine leader.

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Priebus noted the airstrikes Trump ordered earlier this month in Syria when discussing the president’s human rights record.

“It doesn’t mean that human rights don’t matter,” Priebus said, when asked by host Jonathan Karl.

Trump’s chief of staff noted that he did not sit through the entire call between Trump and Duterte, but said North Korean aggression is “so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure that we have our ducks in a row.”

The United States has been ramping up its discussions with regional partners as tensions mount with North Korea. Pyongyang this month conducted two failed ballistic missile tests.