The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in Palm Beach, Florida
Death of Former First Lady Barbara Bush
President Trump. Thank you very much. I want to begin today by expressing my deep condolences to the entire Bush family on the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush, a wonderful, wonderful person. For decades, Barbara was a titan in American life. Her presence and character were engraved into America's identity.
Her strength and toughness really embodied the spirit of our country. And her warmth and devotion earned the admiration of an entire Nation and, indeed, the entire world. She was a tireless champion for literacy. She was a fierce advocate for the American family. And she was a woman of proud patriotism and profound faith.
Our hearts are saddened by her passing, but our spirits are lifted by the memories of her goodness and her grace. She was a good person. Melania and I send our prayers to Barbara's husband of 73 years—I'll never beat that record—President George H.W. Bush; to the surviving children Jeb and Neil and Marvin, Dorothy, and former President George W. Bush; and to their many wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
U.S. Military Operations in Syria
This evening I also want to send a message to all of the brave service members from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom who were involved in the very successful strikes on targets associated with the Syrian chemical weapons program last week. Once again, the unmatched skill of the United States military, and our great partners and allies, was demonstrated to the entire world. Missiles were shot. They tried to knock them down; they weren't in the least successful. They hit none.
The purpose of our strike was to establish a strong deterrent against the use of banned chemical weapons. Civilized nations must join together to prevent the horrors of chemical warfare and, in fact, warfare. And I think our allies really were absolutely world class, wonderful. We thank them for their support.
Today I'm thrilled to be joined by my good friend, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, highly respected gentleman. Prime Minister, Melania and I are honored to host you and Mrs. Abe once again at Mar-a-Lago. We're grateful for the tremendous hospitality you showed us during our visit to your country last fall. It was a true privilege to be welcomed to the magnificent land of Japan, or as I've heard all my life, the Land of the Rising Sun. It's true. So great.
During our visit to Asia in November, we had tremendous success enlisting support for our campaign of maximum pressure on the North Korean regime. As you know, I will be meeting with Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Hopefully, that meeting will be a great success. And we're looking forward to it. It would be a tremendous thing for North Korea and a tremendous thing for the world. So we will be doing everything possible to make it a worldwide success, not just for the United States or South Korea or North Korea or Japan, but for the entire world.
We hope to see the day when the whole Korean Peninsula can live together in safety, prosperity, and peace. This is the destiny of the Korean people who deserve and have gone through so much over the years. We hope it all works out; we'll be trying very hard.
I want to thank the Prime Minister for his insight and support over the past year as we have pursued the dream of a peaceful, nuclear-free Korea. Shinzo, you have worked very hard, along with us and all of our people, and we thank you very much. And we're with you. And you're a lot closer than we are, but we're working on this together. Okay? Thank you very much. Your support has been critical to getting us to this important moment in time. It's a historic moment and possibly beyond that if it works out properly.
Our discussions today reaffirmed the close cooperation between the United States and Japan on the issue of North Korea and our common defense. We will not repeat the mistakes of previous administrations. Our campaign of maximum pressure will continue until North Korea denuclearizes. We have great respect for many aspects of what they're doing, but we have to get it together. We have to end nuclear weapons, ideally in all parts of the world. That would be a goal for all of us to hope for and to cherish.
As I've said before, there is a bright path available to North Korea when it achieves denuclearization in a complete and verifiable and irreversible way. It will be a great day for them. It will be great day for the world.
During my visit to Japan last fall, I met with Japanese families who endured the terrible heartbreak of having their loved ones abducted by the North Korean regime. We want to see these families reunited as soon as possible. And I know for a fact that it's one of the truly most important things on Shinzo's mind. We talk about it often. It's so important to you. And we're going to do everything possible to have them brought back and bring them back to Japan. I gave you that promise.
The United States also supports Japan's efforts to improve its defense capabilities, and we're exploring ways to expedite the sale of American military equipment to Japan through the Foreign Military Sales program. We've stepped up our effort not only with respect to Japan, but other allies, that when they order military equipment from us, we will get it taken care of, and they will get their equipment rapidly. It would be, in some cases, years before orders would take place because of bureaucracy with Department of Defense, State Department. We are short-circuiting that. It's now going to be a matter of days. If they're our allies, we are going to help them get this very important, great military equipment. And nobody—nobody—makes it like the United States. It's the best in the world by far.
We're also working to improve our economic partnership by reducing our trade imbalance and removing barriers to U.S. exports. The United States is committed to free, fair, and reciprocal—very important word—trade. And we're committed to pursuing a bilateral trading relationship that benefits both of our great countries. Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed to intensify our trade and investment consultations. Ambassador Lighthizer, who's with us today, will take the lead for the United States.
These past 2 days have been extremely productive. The friendship between Japan and the United States has never been closer. I truly believe it has never been closer than it is today. And the bonds between our people have never been stronger. In the months ahead, we will rely on this great friendship as we face an array of old challenges and new opportunities, and we will face them together. We will work closely on trade. We will do something having to do with the imbalance that, frankly, should have been done for years and years and years.
Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you again for traveling to Mar-a-Lago for these important discussions and meetings. It's been a true honor to welcome you here and to work with you toward greater security, prosperity, and peace for our two truly great and wonderful nations. And thank you for being here, Shinzo. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Prime Minister Abe. Mrs. Barbara Bush, the former First Lady, she has passed away. On representing the Japanese people, I would like to express my condolences to former President Bush and to all the family members. We express our heartfelt condolences.
For the infinitely blue sky, refreshing and a soothing sea breeze, it was a great pleasure to be invited once again to this beautiful Mar-a-Lago and in a relaxed atmosphere to spend significant length of time with President Trump to engage in fruitful discussion in a frank and straightforward manner.
About a year ago at this place, at the very moment I was at dinner with President Trump, North Korea dared to launch ballistic missiles. It is absolutely intolerable. Immediately after I said so, President Trump stepped forward in front of the camera, though it was not planned, and made one following comment: The U.S. is with our ally, Japan, a hundred percent. The President sent out a message of powerful commitment to the world. Donald, your words on that occasion is still deeply etched in my mind, together with my wonderful memory of my stay here in Mar-a-Lago. With one single comment, you demonstrated the superbly strong Japan-U.S. alliance, which has a history of longer than half a century.
And I once again express my deepest respect for your remarkable leadership. A year also has passed since then. The situation surrounding North Korea, due to the decisive decision by President Trump on the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, is at a historical turning point. The past mistakes should never be repeated. On this point, President Trump and I were in full agreement.
On the occasion of the 1994 framework agreement or the 2005 six-party talks agreement, North Korea committed to abandon nuclear weapons development. But those promises were broken, and the effort of the international community to engage in dialogue were all entirely exploited to buy time to develop nuclear weapons and more missiles.
Based on such lessons learned, both the U.S. and Japan, together with the international community, we will demand that for all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles complete a verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles to North Korea. By envisioning multiple scenarios, we carefully thought out our policies and directions at a concrete and detailed level.
Just because North Korea is responding to dialogue, there should be no reward. Maximum pressure should be maintained, and actual implementation of concrete actions towards denuclearization will be demanded. This firm policy has once again been completely shared between us.
On this occasion, we also agreed to continue our effort towards the earlier resolution of the top priority matter of abduction. Just now President Trump, on this spot here, has mentioned that with the return of the abductees, maximum effort will be made. With the clear promise just made here, we are deeply encouraged, Donald. Half a year ago, when you visited our country, you listened intently to each and every family members of the abductees. You listened carefully and kindly said you would like to help. Your image on that occasion is indelibly etched in the eyes and minds of many of the Japanese people. Going forward, we wish to work closely with the United States and towards the immediate return of all abductees. We are determined to strengthen our approach vis-à-vis North Korea.
North Korea has diligent workforce and is blessed with resources. If North Korea advances in the right direction, they can make their populations richer. If North Korea takes the right path under the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration, there could be a possible path to settle the unfortunate past and to normalize diplomatic relationship.
For that to happen, a comprehensive resolution of multiple concerns—including abduction, nuclear, and missiles—will be the fundamental precondition. Through the upcoming historic U.S.-North Korea summit, we strongly hope for a breakthrough in this situation.
The Japan-U.S. alliance is not just limited to the sphere of security, but it also contributes to the peace and prosperity of the world, as well as the region. On the economic front, Japan and the U.S. will take a lead and develop a free and fair market in the Indo-Pacific region.
I spent some time with President Trump to discuss ways to make that happen in a candid manner. First of all, we must further strengthen the economic ties between the two countries. Under President Trump, exports from the U.S.—including energy, aircraft, amongst others—have already been increasing significantly. Further, following the bold tax reform by President Trump, Japanese companies' investments in the U.S. have been gaining momentum, which is creating a large number of jobs in the U.S. and contributing to the expansion of the exports from the U.S.
In order to benefit both Japan and the U.S., we'll further expand trade and investment between the two countries. Building upon that foundation, we'll aim to realize economic development in the free and open Indo-Pacific region based on fair rules. To make that happen, at this time, President Trump and I agreed to start talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals. And Minister Motegi will be responsible for these talks on the side of Japan. Minister Motegi and the U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer, I hope, will have very fruitful discussions.
Over the last 2 days, President Trump and I have spent more than 7 hours together over meals and playing golf, while at the same time, we were able to hold extremely fulfilling talks in a relaxing atmosphere. The last few days were the time when I was able to further deepen my friendship and relationship of trust with President Trump.
Lastly, I'd like to express my sincere appreciation to Donald and First Lady Melania for their wonderful hospitality, as well as the continued warmhearted welcome of the people of the United States. Thank you.
President Trump. Thank you very much, Shinzo. Appreciate it.
Questions. Mark Landler [New York Times]. Mark.
U.S. Citizens Held Captive in North Korea/North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program/China/South Korea/U.S. Tariffs on Imported Aluminum and Steel
Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Mr. Prime Minister, nice to see you again. Mr. President, you sent your CIA Director to Pyongyang a couple of weeks ago, and he returned without three Americans who are being detained there and also without any other visible signs of concessions the North Koreans had made to the United States in advance of your meeting with Mr. Kim.
My question is: Do you intend or are you willing to sit down with Kim Jong Un if Americans are still being held in North Korea? And will you insist on other tangible concessions from the North Koreans in return for gestures like sending a potential future Secretary of State to North Korea?
And for the Prime Minister, if I may, you, a moment ago, alluded to new trade talks between your minister and Mr. Lighthizer. Should we interpret that to mean that you are now open to negotiating a bilateral trade deal between the United States and Japan?
And then, a second question: Japan is the only major American ally that was not exempted from the steel tariffs. Did you ask the President to exempt Japan? And if so, how did he reply?
President Trump. Thank you, Mark, very much. The fact is that they do have three prisoners. We have been talking about them. We are negotiating now. We are doing our very best. As you know, they've been there a long time, and it's harsh treatment. We fought very hard to get Otto Warmbier back. And when we came back, he was in very, very bad condition. It was a very sad event.
We are likewise fighting very diligently to get the three American citizens back. I think there's a good chance of doing it. We're having very good dialogue. We will keep you informed. But we are in there, and we are working very hard on that.
We have come a long way with North Korea. We were, as you know—and when I say "we", for many years, they've been talking to North Korea and nothing has happened. This should have been taken care of by past administrations when they were not nearly so far along. But we put unbelievably powerful sanctions on and many other things.
I want to thank publicly President Xi of China, who has done more for us than he's done for any other administration or than any leader of China has done for any President or administration. He has clogged up the border, as you know, and he's done it very, very powerfully. He would tell you himself that he never thought he would go to this extent, and I appreciate that very much. But it's put a lot of pressure on.
And, as you know, 93 percent of the goods coming into North Korea come in from China. And President Xi understands that this is a very important set of months that are lying ahead. He doesn't want to see a Korea—North Korea or any Korea—that has nuclear weapons either. So he's also fighting for China when it comes to this. But he has been terrific. Can he be better? I always say yes, he can be better. I said: "President, you've been great. Can you be better? Yes." But he's been very good, and it's had a big impact. And what we've done has had a big impact.
So we've never been in a position like this with that regime, whether it's father, grandfather, or son. And I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don't think it's going to be successful, Mark, we won't have it. We won't have it. If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting, and we'll continue what we're doing or whatever it is that we'll continue. But something will happen. So I like always remaining flexible, and we'll remain flexible here. I've gotten it to this point. President Moon of South Korea was very generous when he said, if it weren't for Donald Trump, the Olympics would have been a total failure. It was my involvement and the involvement of our great country that made the Olympics a very successful Olympics. If you look at ticket sales prior to what took place with respect to North Korea, it was going to be a big problem, and it turned out to be a very successful Olympics.
So we've gotten us here, and I think we're going to be successful. But if for any reason I feel we're not, we end. Okay? Thank you, Mark.
Prime Minister Abe. Between President Trump and myself, for benefiting both Japan and the U.S., we are—have expanded the investment and trade based on the foundation—open and fair economic development in the Indo-Pacific region. We are—have agreed to start talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals at this time.
As for section 232, Japanese steel and aluminum would not exert any negative influence on the U.S. security. Rather, it's our position that the quality of Japanese product is high. Many of those products are difficult to be replaced with, and they are greatly contributing to the U.S. industries and employment. So recognizing that, we'd like to continue to respond to this matter going forward.
President Trump. I will add that the 232, having to do with aluminum and steel tariffs—30 percent, in one case; 25 percent and 10 percent—that it's got us to the bargaining table with many nations, and, in other cases, they're paying. And it's billions of dollars coming into the coffers of the United States. So they've been, actually, very important.
If you look at what we did with solar panels, where we put 30 percent tariffs on, we had 32 companies opened with pretty new plants, because it's a relatively new industry. Of the 32 plants, 30 were closed, and 2 were not doing well. Since putting the tariffs on, the two are doing very well, seven or eight are going to be opening, and a lot more will open.
Same thing with washing machines. We were, believe it not, having washing machines dumped all over the country. We put tariffs on, and we're now opening up and expanding companies that create and make—which is actually a very big business—washing machines and dryers.
So the workers of our country know what's happening. We have companies moving up from Mexico, automobile companies, and they're building new plants in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Kentucky and expanding their plants. A lot of things are happening. Our country is doing very, very well. And it's going to continue. It's going to continue. A lot of great momentum.
If you look at any chart, the enthusiasm for business in our country is at an alltime high. And unemployment, for African American workers, for Hispanic workers, unemployment is at an alltime low. In history, in the history of our country, it's at the lowest point. If you look at unemployment for women, it's at an 18-year low. So we're very proud of our achievements.
And starting know, as you see, over the last few weeks, the tax cuts are kicking in. And it's a beautiful thing to see. And people are spending money where they didn't have the money to spend previously. So we're very happy with that.
Japanese Citizens Held Captive in North Korea Q. I'm—[inaudible]. Now, I'd like to ask a question about how to handle North Korean issues. Prime Minister Abe, the coordination for holding summits between the South Korea and North Korea, as well between the U.S. and North Korea, is underway, there is a concern in Japan that Japan may be left behind. So how are you going to proceed with dialogue with North Korea?
President Trump, you talked about the abduction issue. Are you going to consider the nuclear weapons disarmament the same level as abduction issue?
President Trump. Well, maybe I'll go first. Abduction is a very important issue for me because it's very important to your Prime Minister. I will tell you that we were having dinner last night, and he started talking about abduction and how horrible it was. And his level of enthusiasm was unbelievable. And I said to him right then and there last night at the table, I said we will work very hard on that issue, and we will try and bring those folks back home. Very, very hard.
Prime Minister Abe. Whether Japan will be left behind, that is not at all the case. In the last 2 days, together with President Trump, we have spoken about North Korea. There will be the inter-Korean talks, and a U.S.-North Korea summit is planned. We have gone into really in-depth discussion. About our policy and direction, we have reached agreement.
Regarding the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, we hope that it will lead to the resolution of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear missile, and of course, more than anything else, we hope it will be a historic summit that will lead to the resolution of abduction. And for that purpose, I have seriously and thoroughly discussed it with President Trump, and we have fully agreed about our direction going forward, in particular regarding abduction. As Donald has explained in our tête-à-tête, we have thoroughly discussed about this matter.
Last year, the President met with the victims of the abduction, as well as the family members. And their families' feelings have been strongly felt and understood by the President, and he has given a very encouraging comment that he would appeal towards early resolution. I highly appreciate this encouraging comment. This gives us huge courage, a very encouraging comment. And for the families of the abductees, again, this is a massively, powerfully encouraging comment.
And therefore, going forward between Japan and the U.S., or between the trilateral of Japan, U.S., and South Korea, we will cooperate closely and do our utmost to resolve the issues of North Korea, including abduction, nuclear, and missiles.
President Trump. And we will be very loyal to Japan. Thank you.
Jennifer Jacobs [Bloomberg News].
Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election/Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III/Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. On the Mueller probe, have you concluded that it's not worth the political fallout to remove either Special Counsel Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein?
And, Prime Minister Abe, did the President ask you to provide more funding for U.S. troops in Japan? And what agreement did you reach here in Florida on buying more military equipment from the U.S.? President Trump. Jennifer, I can say this: that there was no collusion, and that's been so found, as you know, by the House Intelligence Committee. There's no collusion. There was no collusion with Russia, other than by the Democrats, or, as I call them, the "obstuctionists," because they truly are obstructionists.
So we are giving tremendous amounts of paper. This was a—really a hoax created largely by the Democrats as a way of softening the blow of a loss, which is a loss that, frankly, they shouldn't have had from the standpoint that it's very easy for them. They have a tremendous advantage in the electoral college. And this is what it is, and this is where it came from.
You look at the kind of money that was paid. Probably, some went to Russia. You look at Podesta having a company in Russia where nothing happened and people don't talk about it. You look at the fact that their server, the DNC server, was never gotten by the FBI. Why didn't the FBI take it? The FBI takes what they want. They go in; they wouldn't get the server.
This is a hoax. As far as the investigation, nobody has ever been more transparent than I have instructed our lawyers,—"Be totally transparent." I believe we've given them 1.4 million pages of documents, if you can believe this. And I haven't used—that I know of, or for the most part—Presidential powers or privilege.
So we are, hopefully, coming to the end. It is a bad thing for our country, very, very bad thing for our country. But there has been no collusion. They won't find any collusion. It doesn't exist.
As far as the two gentlemen you told me about, they've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last 3 months, 4 months, 5 months. And they're still here. So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us. And we have to get back to business with negotiating with this gentleman and plenty of others. But this gentleman is a very tough negotiator, and we have to focus on that.
Thank you very much.
Prime Minister Abe. Regarding the U.S. forces expenses, of the U.S. forces in Japan, the safety and security of Japan and the peace and stability of the Far East is being maintained. And for the forward deployment strategy of the United States in the Asia-Pacific, in terms of the presence, their presence in Japan is very meaningful and significant. In the case of Japan, across the world, in terms of paying for the expenses, Japan accounts for the largest percentage of stationing compared to other countries. And the President understands very well.
Japan-U.S. Trade/Trans-Pacific Partnership
Q. I'm—[inaudible]—with Sankei News. I have a question for President Trump. This is the follow-up question for 232. So you don't have any intention to exempt Japan at this point in time? And President Trump and Prime Minister Abe, with regard to trade, you are going to establish new talks for trade. Is it going to be in the direction of FTA or TPP? So we'd like—I'd like to hear the views from both of you.
Prime Minister Abe. So at this time, between President Trump, talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals, to initiate that has been agreed. As for this talk, Minister Motegi and Ambassador Lighthizer, USTR, will be the representative. And Mr. Aso and Vice President Pence, the U.S.-Japan economic dialogue where they will be receiving the report of these talks. As for these talks, I thought that it would be the interest of both of the countries that the investment and trade between the two countries will be expanded. And we are going to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific economic growth.
So on the U.S. side, that they are interested in a bilateral deal, we are aware of that. But at any rate, our country's position is that TPP is the best for both of the countries. And based on that position, we shall be dealing with the talks.
President Trump. Thank you very much. The United States has a massive trade deficit with Japan. It's anywhere from $69 billion to $100 billion a year. That's massive by any standpoint. We are doing 232 on steel and aluminum. And if we can come to an arrangement on a new deal between the United States and Japan, that would certainly be something we would discuss, aluminum tariffs and steel tariffs. And I would look forward to being able to, at some point in the future, take them off.
But right now we have a deficit that's a minimum of $69 billion a year. Japan sends us millions and millions of cars, and we tax them virtually not at all. And we don't send so much product, because we have trade barriers and lots of other things. So these are the things that the Prime Minister and I are going to be discussing over the next short period of time.
The media has not covered the TPP correctly. I don't want to go back into TPP, but if they offered us a deal that I can't refuse, on behalf of the United States, I would do it. But I like bilateral better. I think it's better for our country. I think it's better for our workers. And I much would prefer a bilateral deal, a deal directly with Japan. We already have a deal with 6 of the 11 nations in the TPP. So we already have trade deals, and the others we can make very easily. They're all calling wanting to make a deal. But we think that's much better for us.
So unless they offer us a deal that we cannot refuse, I would not go back into TPP. We'll see what happens. But in the meantime, we're negotiating. And what I really prefer is negotiating a one-on-one deal with Japan. And that's where we are right now, and I will say that the representatives who are sitting right here are extraordinarily competent and very tough, those representing Japan. And we will hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, have a very good deal, good for Japan and good for the United States. Okay?
Thank you all very much. We appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Prime Minister Abe. Thank you.
President Trump. Thank you very much, Shinzo.
U.S. Sanctions Against Russia/Syria
Q. Anything sanctions on Russia, sir?
Q. Why no sanctions on Russia, sir?
Q. Mr. President, why did you delay the sanctions on Russia?
President Trump. Yes, we'll do sanctions. As soon as they very much deserve it, we will have—that is a question. There has been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump. Between building up the military, between creating tremendous vast amounts of oil. We raised billions and billions of dollars extra in NATO. We had a very, very severe—we were talking about it a little while—fight in Syria recently, a month ago, between our troops and Russian troops, and that's very sad. But many people died in that fight. There has been nobody tougher than me. With the media, no matter what I did, it's never tough enough, because that's their narrative. But Russia will tell you, there has been nobody tougher than Donald Trump. And then, the other night, we had a strike in Syria, which was absolute precision.
I leave it with this, with all of that said: If we can get along with China, and if we can get along with Russia, and if we can get along with Japan and other nations, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. Just remember that. If we got along with other nations, that's good, not bad.
Thank you very much, everybody.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 6:16 p.m. at the Mar-a-Lago Club. In his remarks, the President referred to Dorothy Bush Koch, daughter of former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; Chairman of the Korean Worker's Party Kim Jong Un of North Korea; Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim, and Kim Dong-chul, U.S. citizens detained by North Korean officials; and John D. Podesta, former campaign chairman for 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. Prime Minister Abe referred to Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Toshimitsu Motegi and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan. A reporter referred to Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael R. Pompeo. Prime Minister Abe and a reporter 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 in Palm Beach, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/332529