During a phone call in late April with the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, President Trump told Duterte that two U.S. nuclear submarines were in the waters off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, an unusual disclosure that shocked Pentagon officials and raised further concern about Trump's handling of sensitive information, according to Reuters.
In a transcript of the phone call obtained by The Intercept, President Duterte expressed serious concern over the potential threat presented by North Korea. The president assured Duterte that the U.S. has immense firepower in the region that would be used, if necessary. "We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines — the best in the world — we have two nuclear submarines — not that we want to use them at all," Trump was quoted as saying in the transcript.
North Korea has plans to develop a missile to which they could attach a nuclear warhead, in order to strike the U.S., according to Reuters. The country has defended the program, saying it is essential to counteract aggression from the U.S.
To send a message to North Korea, the U.S. sent "the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to waters off the Korean peninsula, where it joined the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea in late April," according to Reuters.
Pentagon officials are not happy with Trump revealing the sensitive information, and potentially ruining the element of surprise. During his presidential campaign, Trump strongly criticized the Obama-era Defense Department for talking about their military plans relating to ISIS. "We never talk about subs!" three military officials said to Buzzfeed News.
The transcript of the phone call was confirmed as an accurate representation of the conversation by a senior Trump administration official who had requested anonymity, the New York Times reported. Trump also praised Duterte, told him he was "a good man," and commended his handling of the war on drugs in the country. "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump said. Yet Duterte's policies in his country's drug war have been authoritarian and violent, and included his police force killing over 7,000 people.
The Trump administration continues to behave recklessly when it comes to keeping sensitive information secret, and allies may grow increasingly skeptical on sharing intelligence with the U.S. as a result.