Says Saudis not paying fair share for US defence
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programmes, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.
Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedevilled multiple US presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasising by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said. In other highlights of the 42-minute interview, Trump was cool to speaking again with Taiwan’s president after an earlier telephone call with her angered China.
He also said he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the US THAAD anti-missile defence system, which he estimated at $1 billion, and intends to renegotiate or terminate a US free trade pact with South Korea because of a deep trade deficit with Seoul.
Asked when he would announce his intention to renegotiate the pact, Trump said: “Very soon. I’m announcing it now.”
Trump also said he was considering adding stops to Israel and Saudi Arabia to a Europe trip next month, emphasising that he wanted to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He complained that Saudi Arabia was not paying its fair share for US defence.
Asked about the fight against Islamic State, Trump said the militant group had to be defeated.
“I have to say, there is an end. And it has to be humiliation,” he said when asked about what the endgame was for defeating violent extremism.
Trump said North Korea was his biggest global challenge. He lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese assistance in trying to rein in Pyongyang. The two leaders met in Florida earlier this month. “I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.
“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” Trump said.
Trump spoke just a day after he and his top national security advisers briefed US lawmakers on the North Korean threat and one day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press the United Nations Security Council on sanctions to further isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programmes.
Trump also complained on Thursday that US ally Saudi Arabia was not treating the United States fairly and Washington was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom.
Trump confirmed his administration was in talks about possible visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel in the second half of May.He is due to make his first trip abroad as president for a May 25 Nato summit in Brussels and could add other stops.
“Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Nobody’s going to mess with Saudi Arabia because we’re watching them,” Trump told a campaign rally in Wisconsin a year ago. “They’re not paying us a fair price. We’re losing our shirt.”—Agencies