By Anne Gearan,
President Trump said he and Asian leaders have a new resolve to confront North Korea and its rogue nuclear weapons program, claiming credit Wednesday for projecting a stronger and more confident United States unafraid to insist on sovereignty and respect.
“Time is running out” on dealing with North Korea, Trump said at the White House.
With China, North Korea’s most important ally, Trump said he reaffirmed that “all options are on the table.”
Trump spoke on his first full day back in Washington after a 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia. His remarks represented a sort of victory lap, as he ticked off what he described as his successes on the trip and took aim at what he called the failures and naivete of predecessors in protecting U.S. jobs, trade and security.
“America’s renewed confidence and standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now,” Trump said.
“When we are confident in ourselves, our strength, our flag, our history, our values — other nations are confident in us,” he continued. “And when we treat our citizens with the respect they deserve, other countries treat America with the respect that our country so richly deserves.”
Trump said that in Beijing, he insisted to President Xi Jinping that “we need to reduce our staggering trade deficit with China.”
Trump had come under criticism for saying that he did not “blame China” for the deficit or for “taking advantage” of market openings that he said past administrations had left.
In his remarks Wednesday, Trump gave a retrospective of what he called his forceful approach to U.S. foreign policy. Insisting on sovereignty and respect has led to stronger relationships, great NATO defense commitments, and U.S. arms sales and spending, Trump asserted.
“America is back,” he said.
He claimed progress against the Islamic State and other accomplishments but did not go into detail about his approach to difficult foreign policy problems such as the ongoing war in Syria, the spread of Iranian influence or Russian territorial and other ambitions. He did not mention his decision last month to withdraw the presidential endorsement for the international nuclear deal with Iran or his planned withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Both decisions have put U.S. allies on edge and led some to question American commitments overseas.
Trump made no mention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he met on the margins of a regional conference in Vietnam.
The two leaders released a joint statement, after months of staff work, confirming their commitment to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and supporting a U.N.-backed political settlement between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian opposition fighters who have been trying to oust him for years.
The Putin meeting became controversial when Trump, in subsequent comments to reporters, said that he believed Putin was sincere in again telling him that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump did not respond to shouted questions Wednesday about whether GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama should withdraw after allegations of sexual misconduct.
He paused during the speech at one point to take a long drink of water, a moment that recalled his mockery last year of GOP primary rival Marco Rubio for gulping water during a televised address.
Trump has chafed at criticism that he did not notch any major accomplishments during the nearly two-week trip that spanned Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The rising threat from North Korea was the main security issue for his discussions, and Trump claimed credit for greater unity in applying sanctions aimed at persuading Pyongyang to back off threats against the United States and its allies.
“I called on every nation, including China and Russia, to unite in isolating the North Korean regime — cutting off all ties of trade and commerce — until it stops its dangerous provocation,” Trump said.
On Wednesday, an editorial in a North Korea state-run newspaper called Trump a coward who deserved the death penalty.
“The worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared [to] malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership,” the editorial in Rodong Sinmun said. “He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people.”
Trump pointed Wednesday to a major speech he delivered in Seoul, in which he denounced Pyongyang as a “cruel dictatorship.”
“America does not seek conflict or confrontation. But we will never run from it,” Trump said in his address to the South Korean National Assembly. “History is filled with discarded regimes that have foolishly tested America’s resolve. Anyone who doubts the strength or determination of the United States should look to our past, and you will doubt it no longer.”
In response, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency called Trump a “lunatic old man” who was “lost to sense.”
Days later, Trump tweeted, “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ ” But the American president also suggested that he and Kim might be friends someday.
“I try so hard to be his friend,” Trump tweeted. “Maybe someday that will happen!”