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Remarks Following a Meeting With Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki R. Haley, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and an Exchange With Reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey

August 11, 2017

The President. Thank you, everybody. We had a very good meeting. We talked about North Korea, as you can imagine. We're very much in agreement, I think we are very unified, and we have been right from the beginning: This is something that has to stop. We all feel that very strongly.

I will be speaking to President Xi tonight, from China. And we've been working very closely with China and with other countries. That phone call will take place tonight.

So if you have any questions, go ahead.

South Korea/North Korea/Japan

Q. Mr. President, what have you been able to do to reassure South Korea given the recent tensions?

The President. Well, I think as far as reassurance, they probably feel as reassured as they can feel. Certainly, they feel more reassured with me than they do with other Presidents from the past, because nobody has really done the job that they're supposed to be doing. And that's why we're at this horrible situation right now. And it is a very bad situation. It's a very dangerous situation. And it will not continue, that I can tell you.

So I think South Korea is very happy. And you don't mention Japan, but I think Japan is very happy with the job we're doing. I think they're very impressed with the job that we're doing, and let's see how it turns out.

Russia's Expulsion of U.S. Diplomatic Personnel

Q. Mr. President, were you being sarcastic when you thanked Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 diplomats from Russia?

The President. In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely. I think you know that. I think you knew that.

Q. So—[inaudible]?

The President. We'll see. In fact, I was just speaking to the Secretary, and we're talking about coming up with an answer. When, Rex? Tell me.

Secretary Tillerson. By September 1.

The President. By September 1 we'll have a response. But we have reduced payroll very substantially.


North Korea Q. Mr. President, a lot of Americans are on edge with this rhetoric going back and forth between the United States and North Korea. What can you tell them? What do you tell them——

The President. You know what I can say? Hopefully, it will all work out. Okay? Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump. That I can tell you. Hopefully, it will all work out. But this has been going on for many years. It would have been a lot easier to solve this years ago before they were in the position that they're in. But we will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen, and we could also have a bad solution. But we think lots of good things can happen.

Q. What would be a bad solution, sir?

The President. I think you know the answer to that.

North Korea

Q. But tell us more, Mr. President, please, when you say bad solutions, are you talking about war? Is the U.S. going to go to war?

The President. I think you know the answer to that.


Q. Is Iran abiding by the nuclear agreement, in your view?

The President. Well, we have some pretty strong opinions, but I would say that they are certainly not abiding by the spirit of the agreement. And I'd go a further—really, a further step, but I would say that the spirit of the agreement, Iran is not abiding by. Absolutely.


Q. Staying in that region, do you have the right generals in place right now for the fight in Afghanistan?

The President. Well, we're going to make a determination, Peter [Peter Alexander, NBC News], in a very short period of time as to Afghanistan. I've been looking at it. It's our longest war in history, 17 years. That's unacceptable. We will be making decisions, as you know, very well. And we're looking at that very closely. We talked about it a little bit today. We talked about Venezuela today also, by the way. Venezuela is a mess; it's a very dangerous mess and a very sad situation. But we talked about Venezuela also.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly/The President's Accomplishments

Q. We're a couple weeks into General John Kelly's time as your Chief of Staff. What have you done differently? What has he done to change the way you act or perhaps in the way that your White House acts?

The President. Well, I think General Kelly has done a fantastic job. He's a respected person, respected by everybody. Things have come together very nicely.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. And I have to say, I think probably—and I've gone through this a lot—but I think very, very few Presidents have done what we've done in a 6-month period: whether its optimism in business, whether it's the stock market, whether it's picking up $4 trillion in value with companies and equity, whether it's all of the many things—including a Supreme Court Justice, regulations being cut massively. We have, I think, it's 48 bills being passed in the Legislature—I'm talking about Legislature, not just Executive orders.

I think few have done anywhere near what we've done, and we'll work now on tax reform cuts. We'll never stop working on, as you know, health care. That's also working. And we're working on other things, including infrastructure. We're going to have a very big infrastructure bill. So I think nobody has done—very rarely could I that anybody has done—I'm not sure that anybody has done what we've done in a 6-month period.

But I think that General Kelly has brought a tremendous—he's brought something very special to the office of Chief—I call him "Chief." He's a respected man. He's a four-star from the Marines, and he carries himself like a four-star from the Marines. And he's my friend, which is very important.

Senate Majority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell/Health Care Reform Legislation

Q. Mr. President, a number of Republican Senators have rushed to the defense of Senate Majority Leader McConnell in the last day or so. What do you make of that? And have you reached out to——

The President. I don't make anything of it. We should have had health care approved. He should have known that he had a couple of votes that turned on him, and that should have been very easy to handle, whether it's through the fact that you take away a committee chairmanship or do whatever you have to do.

But what happened, in my opinion, last week is unacceptable. People have been talking about repeal and replace for 7 years, long before I ever decided to be doing what I'm doing. Seven years, they've been talking repeal and replace, and it didn't happen. And it not only didn't happen, it was a surprise, and it was a horrible surprise. And it was very unfair to the Republican Party and very unfair to the people of this country. So I was not impressed.

Now, can he do good? I think so. I think we can do very well on taxes, cuts, reform. I think we're going to do well on infrastructure. And things will happen with respect to health care, and I think things will happen maybe outside of necessarily needing Congress, because there are things that I can do as President that will have a huge impact on health care. So you watch. Stay tuned.

Guam/North Korea

Q. Have you spoken to the Governor of Guam? And what did you tell him?

The President. No, I have not. But I feel that they will be very safe. Believe me, they will be very safe. And if anything happens to Guam, there's going to big, big trouble in North Korea.

U.S. Military Strategy

Q. Have you ordered any change in our military readiness?

The President. I don't want to say. Now, that I just don't—I don't talk about that. You know that. I'm not one that says we're attacking Mosul in 4 months.

Q. Mr. President——

The President. Okay? We do it or we don't do it.

Yes. The President's Travel to New York City

Q. You're interrupting your trip here to return to Washington on Monday. Can you tell us why you're doing that?

The President. Well, this isn't really for me, a trip. You know, I stay out of Manhattan because it's so disruptive to go to Manhattan. Now, I will be going on Sunday night. I have meetings on Monday and Tuesday, going to Manhattan. But I stay out because it's so disruptive.

You know, all of my life—I mean, my adult life, because I grew up in Queens, not in Manhattan. But during the time that I lived in Manhattan, whenever a President came in, it was very disruptive, and I think I'm probably more disruptive than any of them. So when they have to close Fifth Avenue, when they have to close 56th Street and many other streets. So I'm here for that reason. We're doing a tremendous amount of work. We're having, you know, large numbers of meetings, and I'm on the phone a lot. But I'm here for that reason. I just don't—I would love to go to my home in Trump Tower, but it's very, very disruptive to do it.

The President's Schedule

Q. So you have the trip to Washington on Monday——

The President. Yes, we have a conference scheduled, we have a very important meeting scheduled, and we're going to have a pretty big press conference on Monday.

North Korea

Q. Secretary Tillerson has spoken, emphasizing diplomacy. You've spoken, increasingly emphasizing the potential for military options. Are you two on the same page?

The President. Totally. I can tell you, totally on the same page. And, Secretary, maybe you'd like to make a statement.

Secretary Tillerson. Well, I think it takes a combined message there if we're going to get effective movement out of the regime in North Korea. I think the President has made it clear he prefers a diplomatic solution. I think he responded to that, in effect, just a moment ago. And so I think what the President is doing is trying to support our efforts by ensuring North Korea understands what the stakes are.

Q. Speaking of the State Department right now, these recent acoustic attacks we've learned about regarding diplomats—American diplomats—in Cuba. Who is responsible for the acoustic attacks? Is it Cuba? Is it Russia? Who is to blame for that?

Secretary Tillerson. We have not been able to determine who is to blame. We do hold the Cuban authorities responsible for the safety and security of all of our people, just as every host country has a responsibility for the safety and security of diplomats in their country. So we hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who is it carrying out these health attacks on not just our diplomats, but as you've seen now, there are other cases with other diplomats as well.

Q. What do you make of this awful situation of them they're losing their hearing, these American diplomats?

Secretary Tillerson. It's awful. You just described it exactly correctly, which is why we're bringing people out. Venezuela

Q. Can you tell us what you're considering for Venezuela? What options are on the table right now to deal with this mess?

The President. We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela. This is our neighbor. This is—you know, we're all over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they're dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.

Q. That would be U.S.-led, Mr. President?

The President. Say.

Q. That would be a U.S.-led military operation?

The President. We don't talk about it. But a military operation, a military option is certainly something that we could pursue.

Korean Worker's Party Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea

Q. We heard the North Korean state TV saying, "We consider the U.S. no more than a lump which we can beat to a jelly anytime."

The President. Well, let me hear others say it. Because when you say that, I don't know what you're referring to and who is making the statement.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. But let me hear Kim Jong Un say it, okay? He's not saying it. He hasn't been saying much for the last 3 days. You let me hear him say it.

North Korea

Q. Mr. President, do you support regime change in North Korea or in Venezuela? Do you think those regimes——

The President. I don't want to comment because I think they're very different places, so I don't want to comment. But I support peace, I support safety, and I support having to get very tough if we have to, to protect the American people and also to protect our allies.

Vice President Michael R. Pence

Q. Do you think your Vice President will be a candidate for President in 2020?

The President. I don't think so. No. Not—no, I don't think so at all. He's a good guy. He's just—as you know, he's left for Colombia and various other places. He's been terrific. He's been a great ally of mine and a great friend of mine.

North Korea

Q. Are you considering further economic sanctions against North Korea?

The President. Yes, we are. Yes, we are. Very strong ones.

Q. And which ones?

The President. They're already very strong. We are considering additional sanctions at a very, very high level. And probably, you could say, as strong as they get. Okay, thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:59 p.m. at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. In his remarks, he referred to Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. A reporter referred to President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; and Gov. Edward B. Calvo of Guam.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks Following a Meeting With Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki R. Haley, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and an Exchange With Reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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