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 PriebusIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? Ex-White House aide says 'cartoon villain' Kellyanne Conway bad-mouthed colleagues Trump Org hires former WH ethics lawyer to deal with congressional probes MORE on Sunday defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview 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.