Photo of Donald Trump

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan

June 07, 2018

President Trump. Thank you very much. Today I'm greatly honored to welcome my good friend, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, to the White House. Over the past 16 months, the Prime Minister and I have worked closely together to address common challenges, of which there are many; seize opportunities; and advance the interests of our nations. Today we have had another deeply productive and very valuable discussion.

We have developed not only a strong working relationship over the last year and a half, specifically 503 days, but a great personal friendship. I was honored by the tremendous hospitality the Prime Minister showed me when the American delegation went to Japan last year. It was really something very special. And we had the Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe as our guests at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

The steadfast alliance between Japan and the United States is an enduring force of peace and stability in the Pacific region and around the world. From the beginning of my administration, the Prime Minister and I have been working to expand our cooperation in a range of areas, including defense and commerce, which is what we discussed today.

As I prepare to meet next week with Kim Jong Un—and I want to bring up the fact that the Prime Minister Abe and, also, President Moon of South Korea were extremely helpful, cooperative, and they'd like to see something happen. It would be great for North Korea, South Korea. It would be great for Japan, the United States, and the world. Our partnership has been invaluable in reaching this important moment, and we will continue to be in very close communication in the weeks ahead, including the issue of Japanese abductees, which I know is of great personal importance to Prime Minister Abe.

I hope the upcoming meeting in Singapore represents the beginning of a bright new future for North Korea and indeed a bright new future for the world. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would usher in a new era of prosperity, security, and peace for all Koreans—for North and South—and for people everywhere.

Prime Minister Abe and I are also working to improve the trading relationship between the United States and Japan, something we have to do. The United States seeks a bilateral deal with Japan that is based on the principle of fairness and reciprocity. We're working hard to reduce our trade imbalance, which is very substantial, remove barriers to U.S. exports, and to achieve a fair and mutually beneficial economic partnership. And we're on our way.

The Prime Minister was telling us just moments ago that they're buying billions and billions of dollars of additional products of all kinds: military jets, airliners from Boeing, lots of farm products. We're going to be doing a lot more business with Japan, which is what everybody wants to see.

There's never been a better time to invest in the United States. Thanks to our massive tax cuts, historic deregulation, a strong trade policy, which has just really begun—because I will tell you over the years it has been an extraordinarily weak trade policy—the opening of American energy, and a return to the rule of law, our economy is absolutely booming, best it's ever been. Unemployment is at the lowest level in nearly half a century. And for African American and Hispanic American workers, unemployment has reached its lowest level ever recorded.

We welcome and encourage Japanese investors to open new plants and factories in the United States. And that will happen. The Prime Minister has told me that will happen. We want new auto plants going into Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio and many of our States that have them and some that don't. And they'll be doing that.

Japan has also remained a critical partner in our efforts to promote a free and open Pacific region where sovereign nations uphold the rule of law, respect the rights of their neighbors, and honor the interests of their people. These core principles allow diverse nations to thrive and prosper altogether in one beautiful, peaceful atmosphere. We're all happy about it. It's what's happening now.

Prime Minister Abe, it is a true privilege to work with you. You've become my great friend. I want to thank you for being here at the White House for our meetings today. So productive. I'm also very proud to say that the bonds between our nations are stronger than ever before. And I know that, together, we can unlock incredible new opportunities, achieve remarkable new prosperity, and ensure the safety and security of our citizens for a very, very long time to come. And that's what we intend to do.

Thank you very much. Thank you. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.

Prime Minister Abe. Mr. President, I am so grateful to you for this meeting that you offered with great hospitality at such busy time, as G-7 summit and U.S.-North Korea summit meetings are upcoming. I also would like to express my appreciation to the people of the United States for always warmly welcoming us as your ally.

In 5 days, U.S.-North Korea summit is to take place. First of all, I would like to pay my deep respect to the outstanding leadership of President Trump as he made this decision that no past Presidents were ever able to accomplish. In the last 18 months, we really spent many hours to discuss this issue. We shall never repeat the past mistakes. While this thought is completely shared between us, we are able to witness an historic talk which will take place shortly.

Today, with President Trump, our discussion was focused on the issue of North Korea. What should we do as we approach the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, as well as for the peace and stability of Northeast Asia after the summit? On this topic, we took good amount of time and carried out indepth and candid exchange of views. I'm not able to talk about the details of what we discussed, but one thing I can say is that Japan and the United States are always together. I strongly hope that this historic summit in Singapore be a resounding success.

There is a beautiful port town, Niigata, facing the Sea of Japan. A mere 13-year-old girl living there was abducted by North Korea. Forty-five years have passed since then, during which time family members single-mindedly prayed for her return and kept on waiting. The parents became old. Remaining time is slipping away. It is the long-held desire of the Japanese people to have her and all of the abductees come home so that the parents, while they are healthy, can embrace the girl and other abductees again in their arms.

Of course, I wish to directly face North Korea and talk with them so that abduction problem be resolved quickly. To this end, I am determined to take all possible means. On behalf of the citizens of Japan, I would like to thank President Trump and the people of the United States for their understanding and support toward the resolution of the abduction issue. Japan will continue to ask for complete implementation of the successive United Nations Security Council resolutions. There is no change at all for Japan's policy to seek comprehensive solution of the abduction, nuclear and missile programs, and to realize real peace in the Northeast Asia. This is what Japan strongly hopes for.

Now, a major step forward is about to be taken. Donald, President Trump, you are about to make a new history. Not only Japan, but the whole international community is strongly looking forward for the United States-North Korea summit to open doors toward peace and stability of the Northeast Asia.

North Korea abounds with rich natural resources. North Korea has a diligent workforce. If North Korea is willing to take steps toward the right direction, North Korea can see a bright future ahead for itself. Japan, based on the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration, is prepared to settle the unfortunate past, to normalize our diplomatic relations, and to provide economic cooperation. Japan wishes to play the role as much as possible. Donald, I value highly your strong commitment to world peace and prosperity.

In closing, I wish to add that Japan stands ready to make every effort to assist you for the success of U.S.-North Korea summit. Thank you.

President Trump. Appreciate it. That's very nice. So we'll take a few questions, if we can start.

John Roberts [Fox News], go ahead.

North Korea/China

Q. Mr. President, on the subject—and I have a question for the Prime Minister as well. On the subject of North Korea, how far are you willing to go, in terms of economic security, political guarantees with Kim? Are you willing to move down the road toward normalizing relationships, normalizing relations with North Korea, as the Prime Minister suggested he was willing to at some point?

You teased us, as well, out on the South Lawn here last week. You said that you might sign a peace deal to end the war. Where are you with that? And what was in the letter? [Laughter]

President Trump. Well, the letter was just a greeting. It was really very nice. Perhaps I can get approval to put it out. It was really a very warm letter, a very nice letter. I appreciated it very much. And nothing other than: We look forward to seeing you, and we look forward to the summit, and hopefully, some wonderful things will work out. So it was really very warm, very nice. We appreciated it.

I think, John, that we are going to—we're going to have a great success. I don't think it will be in one meeting. I think it will take longer than that. This has been going on for many, many decades. This is something that should have been solved by other Presidents, as I've said often before, long before this point. They waited till the last second. And they shouldn't have waited. This should have been solved by many others. I'm not just saying President Obama, I'm saying other Presidents. A long time ago, this could have been solved in a lot easier manner and a lot less dangerous manner. But it wasn't. So I'll solve it, and we'll get it done.

As far as the Prime Minister is concerned, we've—we will agree and we have agreed that we're going to be helping—if the deal is done, we're going to be helping North Korea. We're going to be working with China. We're going to be working with South Korea. President Xi of China has been terrific. The border has been certainly more closed than ever before. I'd like them to close it a little bit more, but it's been more closed than ever before. China has never worked with us this way. And you know, I give him a lot of credit because, as you know, we're in a dispute as to the imbalance of trade. It's a massive imbalance in China's favor. It's been that way for many decades, and it should have also been handled by previous Presidents. But it wasn't, so we'll handle that too.

But I give President Xi tremendous credit, and I give President Moon tremendous credit. He really would like to see something happen. They've been living with the threat of war from their beginning, and it doesn't make sense. And I really believe that Kim Jong Un wants to do something. I think he wants to see something incredible happen for the people of North Korea.

So we have a lot of great opportunities right now. Shouldn't have waited to this point, but we have a lot of great opportunity.

John, please.

North Korea

Q. Again, Mr. President, would you be willing to go so far as to normalize relations with North Korea? And what about the idea of signing some sort of an agreement on the 12th to end the war?

President Trump. Well, it could be. We could sign an agreement. As you know, that would be a first step. It's what happens after the agreement that really is the big point.

But, yes, we could absolutely sign an agreement. We're looking at it. We're talking about it with them. We're talking about it with a lot of other people. But that could happen. But that's really the beginning. Sounds a little bit strange, but that's probably the easy part; the hard part remains after that.

North Korea/Japan/China

Q. And normalizing relations?

President Trump. Normalizing relations is something that I would expect to do, I would hope to do, when everything is complete. We would certainly hope to do that.

I know that Prime Minister Abe and President Moon have told me, very strongly, that they are going to go and they will help them economically, tremendously. Japan has a tremendous stake, and so do they. We, on the other hand, are very far away. We're very, very far away.

But Japan will be helping. I believe China will be helping economically, also. And I think China wants to see something very good happen, very positive happen. And certainly, South Korea has already stated their intentions. They will be very helpful.

So there are lot of good factors lined up for North Korea. A lot of tremendous factors that give it tremendous potential. It has tremendous potential because the people are great. And we would certainly like to see normalization, yes.

Q. And, Prime Minister Abe, if I could address you as well. We know how important an issue the abductees is for you. President Trump said at Mar-a-Lago during your last meeting that it's a very important issue for him as well. We know about the medium-range ballistic missiles. Did you get an assurance from President Trump that he would address both of those in his first meeting with Kim? Prime Minister Abe. Today we had long hours of discussion with President Trump, good amount of discussion. On the issue of abduction, I was able to have a detailed discussion, and I think President Trump fully understands the situation. He supports the position of Japan.

Last year, President Trump visited Japan. On that occasion, he met with the families of abductees. I told you about the 13-year-old girl abducted. The mother of this girl met with President Trump, and very seriously, he intently listened to the voices and views of the family members. So President Trump, amongst the world leaders, I think he is one of the leaders who understands the issue the most—greatest. So at the upcoming summit, the importance of abductee—abduction would be explained to Mr. Kim Jong Un.

What about the medium-range missiles? As I said earlier on in my statement, the Security Council's resolution must be implemented. All weapons of mass destruction and all ballistic missiles—these are the words used in the resolution of the Security Council. In other words, the Security Council resolution must be completely implemented. On this point, between Japan and U.S. and international community share the same view. I am convinced about it. Thank you.

Mr. Yusa of TBS, please. Next question, please.

International Economic Sanctions Against North Korea

Q. Thank you. My name is Yusa from TBS Television. I have question for both President Trump, as well as Prime Minister Abe. You have not used the language of applying the largest pressure on North Korea, but are you continuing with a deal with the sanction? And the denuclearization, you will be asking for that? And what is the deadline for the denuclearization?

And my question to Prime Minister is how to apply pressure to North Korea and the tone of the language. Are you in full agreement, complete agreement with the United States?

Prime Minister Abe. President Trump has stated that we are implementing sanctions, and those sanctions are very strong sanctions. He also stated that until North Korea takes the action, the sanctions will not be lifted. And Japan is in full agreement, and Japan's position is perfectly in alignment with the United States.

And in our summit meeting this time, we had indepth discussion with President Trump as to how we should respond to the North Korea and ask for the future policy on North Korea. Inclusive of the U.S.-North Korean summit meeting, we have detailed coordination aligning our positions. As I have already mentioned, Japan and the United States are always together. Japan and United States will be in full alignment to seek success for the historic U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in Singapore.

President Trump. Yes. Thank you very much. Maximum pressure is absolutely in effect. We don't use the term anymore because we're going into a friendly negotiation. Perhaps after that negotiation, I will be using it again. You'll know how well we do in the negotiation. If you hear me saying we're going to use "maximum pressure," you'll know the negotiation did not do well, frankly. We—there's no reason to say it.

We, in the meantime, haven't removed any sanctions. We have a list of over 300 massive, in some cases, sanctions to put on North Korea. And I've decided to hold that until we can make a deal, because I really believe there's a potential to make a deal. And I just don't think it's nice going in under those circumstances. But, yes, the campaign hasn't changed. China has continued to hold the border. We, again, would like them to do more in that sense. But they've been really good, and the President has been very good. But maximum sanction is there. We are leaving all of the existing sanctions on. We have many, many sanctions to go, but I don't want to use them unless it's necessary. And I don't think it will be necessary, but we will soon know. Okay? Thank you.

Saagar Enjeti. Where's Saagar? Daily Caller.

Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un of North Korea/Iran

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I have a question for the Prime Minister as well. Mr. President, under what—you've said repeatedly that you are willing to walk away from the negotiations if they don't do well. Under what exact conditions would you be walking away from that summit? And if the summit does go well, will you be inviting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the United States?

President Trump. Well, the answer is yes to the second part of your question. But certainly, if it goes well. And I think it would be well received. I think he would look at it very favorably. So I think that could happen.

All I can say is, I am totally prepared to walk away. I did it once before. You have to be able to walk away. If you're not going to be able to walk away—we didn't walk away from the horrible Iran deal that was signed. And if you look at what's happened since I signed that deal, Iran—and in all fairness, I say it with great respect for the people of Iran—but Iran is acting a lot differently. They're no longer looking so much to the Mediterranean. They're no longer looking so much to what's going on in Syria, what's going on in Yemen and lots of other places. They're a much different country over the last 3 months.

And again, I say that with hope that maybe something can happen. But when you mention sanctions, we're putting sanctions on Iran, the likes of which nobody has ever seen before, including, frankly, North Korea. That would have been the next phase, if we did it or find it necessary to do.

But nuclear to me is always first. And we're going to be fine, with respect to Iran. But we also, Saagar, got something out of it that's very important. A lot of the people that write about this, some of whom I have great respect for, but they haven't picked it up: Iran is not the same country that it was a few months ago. They're a much, much different group of leaders. And I hope at some point they'll come to us and we'll sit down and we'll make a deal that's good for them and good for us and good for everybody. And it will be great for Iran. I expect it to be—I want it to be—great for Iran.

But if they would have walked—our side—from some of the horrible provisions that you know as well as I do, and probably everybody sitting here knows, we could have had a great deal. Nothing wrong with a deal, but there's something wrong with that deal. We had a great opportunity to make a phenomenal deal.

So I am totally prepared to walk. It could happen. Maybe it won't be necessary. I hope it won't be necessary to walk because I really believe that Kim Jong Un wants to do something that is going to be great for his people and also great for his family and great for himself.

Okay? Thank you very much.

Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un of North Korea Q. Sir, if you do invite him to the White House—or to the United States, would it be here at the White House or at Mar-a-Lago?

President Trump. Maybe we'll start with the White House. What do you think? [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, you are the only major world leader not to have a sitdown or a planned sitdown with Kim Jong Un. You hinted in your address today that you would be willing to do so on the matter of abductees. Do you have any plans currently to do so? And would it be focused solely on abductees, or would you be willing to have a separate denuclearization discussion with Kim Jong Un directly without the United States? Thank you.

Prime Minister Abe. Of course, on the issue of abduction, we have to resolve this problem. With Abe administration, this is of the highest priority. And if anything contributes to that resolution, if the talk leads to the solution of the problem between U.S. and North Korea or between Japan and North Korea, the meetings we wish to have on the issue of abduction in the final analysis, Chairman Kim Jong Un and between me—between Japan and North Korea, problem has to be solved. Of course, for Japan, missile issue and nuclear issue—very important.

Nuclear issue, missile issue, regarding these issues, at the U.S. and North Korea summit meeting, first and foremost, I'm hopeful for the progress. And then, on the issue of abduction, we will liaise—we will collaborate with the U.S. and international community. And Japan, ourselves, must talk directly with North Korea in the final analysis. I am determined about that.

Mr. Hayashi?

Abduction of Japanese Citizens by North Korea/Release of U.S. Citizens Detained in North Korea

Q. Thank you, Prime Minister Abe. I have question to Prime Minister as well as President Trump. Starting with Prime Minister, you have already mentioned to a certain degree on the abduction issue. In order to hold Japan-North Korea summit, the premise is that you need to obtain results for the abduction issue. What kind of concrete pathway are you envisaging to hold the summit meeting?

In your meeting with President Trump today, have you asked President Trump to raise the question of abduction at the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in Singapore?

Next is my question to President Trump. You have—Kim Jong Un has maintained this position that the abduction issue is something that already had been resolved. So what kind of explanation has been given to the United States on the abduction issue in the North Korea to U.S. via consultations? And how should we approach the North Korea in order to seek solution for the abduction? And what did you convey to Prime Minister Abe today in this regard?

President Trump. You know, I can speak first because I will tell you, on the Prime Minister's behalf, that he very much talked about abduction. It was preeminent in our conversations. He talked about it long and hard and passionately. And I will follow his wishes, and we will be discussing that with North Korea, absolutely. Absolutely.

Prime Minister, go ahead.

Prime Minister Abe. Now, at our Japan-U.S. summit meeting we had in Mar-a-Lago in the February, today, once again, as President Trump has mentioned already, I have explained on the abduction issue once again, and I have conveyed to him the earnest wish of the families of the abductees. And President Trump once again has stated that the abduction issue will be raised at the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit.

Now, at the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting, as to the concrete matters to be discussed, I would like to refrain from mentioning this at this juncture. But in any case, Japan's fulsome position were explained at length, and President Trump has given his understanding, and he has promised that the issue will be brought up at the summit meeting in Singapore. And I am delighted of this.

President Trump and the international community—I would like to closely work with President Trump as well as the international community to seek solution to the issue. In solving the abduction issue, Japan itself needs to have direct consultation with North Korea. I have not changed my resolve in doing so.

And under this decision and resolve, what will be conducive to solve the abduction issue—of course, I will have to think about the summit meeting for Japan-North Korea summit meeting. If we are to have the summit meeting, the nuclear, the missile, and what is more important, the abduction issue—the solution to all these issues must be the result. And I hope that we will be able to realize a summit meeting which would lead to solution of the problems.

But first and foremost, we need to seek advancement for the abduction, nuclear and missile programs. Japan and U.S. should closely cooperate with each other so that we will be able to see great success for the historic U.S.-North Korea summit meeting. And Japan would like to give our all-out efforts in support.

Thank you.

President Trump. I'd like to just close by paying my highest respect and regards and love, frankly—I've gotten to know them very well—to the Warmbier family, the incredible family of Otto Warmbier, who was a brilliant, beautiful, terrific young man. And he has not died in vain, I can tell you that. He has not died in vain. So to the Warmbier family, our love and our respect.

Also, I'd like to say that we were tremendously successful in getting our three hostages back. And I'm very thankful to the cooperation that we received from North Korea. And the three United States citizens are now very happily ensconced in their homes with their families. They're very happy. And they didn't think this was going to happen. And frankly, it would never have happened, but it has.

So I just want to wish them well also. They had a tough journey, but I really respect the fact that we were able to work with the North Korean folks and get them out. They're very, very well ingrained already. They're back into—they were telling me they're now going to movies and they're going out to dinner and they're back. They're back in our country, and it's a terrific thing.

I believe we're going to have a terrific success or a modified success. But in one form or another, if it all goes—and things can happen between now and then—but I know many of you are going. And I look forward to seeing you there. I look forward to traveling with you. It's a long way. But I really believe that we have the potential to do something incredible for the world. And it's my honor to be involved.

Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 2:22 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Abe; and Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim, and Kim Dong-chul, U.S. citizens formerly detained by North Korean officials who returned to the U.S. on May 10. Prime Minister referred to Megumi Yokota, a Japanese citizen who was abducted by North Korean authorities in 1977, and her parents Shigeru and Sakie Yokota. Prime Minister Abe and two reporters spoke in Japanese, and their remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Donald J. Trump, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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