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President Trump says NATO not obsolete, reversing campaign stance

Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also fielded questions about Syria, Russia, China and North Korea during a press conference.
Trump and Stoltenberg meet about NATO
President Donald Trump (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg shake hands during a joint news conference in the East Room at the White House. Photo: Reuters

President Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a news conference after their meeting in the Oval Office on Wednesday. Stoltenberg said he had an excellent and productive meeting with the president.

Trump and Stoltenberg spoke before fielding questions from reporters. Here are some highlights.

NATO is "no longer obsolete"

Trump said NATO is not obsolete, as he had declared on the campaign trail last year, but said NATO members still need to pay their fair share for the European security umbrella. In 2014, NATO members agreed to work toward a standard 2 percent of each countries' GDP within the next 10 years. During his campaign, Trump said that members of NATO should pay to make up for past defense costs.

At the conference, Trump also thanked NATO members for their support of his decision last Thursday to launch 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on civilians and said it was time to end Syria's civil war.

"I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete," Trump said, adding that the transatlantic alliance was adapting to the broader mission against Islamic militants that he had urged.

The United States will deal with North Korea with or without China

The United States is prepared to tackle the crisis surrounding North Korea without China if necessary, Trump said at the news conference.

Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping last week and spoke to him by phone on Wednesday night.

"President Xi wants to do the right thing. We had a very good bonding, I think we had a very good chemistry together, I think he wants to help us with North Korea," Trump said. "We talked trade, we talked a lot of things, and I said the way you’re going to make a good trade deal is to help us with North Korea, otherwise we’re just going to go it alone, that’ll be all right too, but going it alone means going with lots of other nations."

"We're not getting along with Russia at all"

When asked if his opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed, Trump voiced caution saying he would wait and see about future ties with Moscow. Trump added that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's meetings in Moscow this week, which included a meeting with Putin, went better than expected.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
 
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