Reuters interviewed U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday. Here are some of the highlights.
ON POSSIBLE “MAJOR” CONFLICT WITH NORTH KOREA
“There’s a chance that we could end up having a major, major, conflict with North Korea, absolutely.”
QUESTION: Is that your biggest global worry at this point?
“Yes, I would say that’s true, yes. … North Korea would be certainly that.”
ON GETTING SOUTH KOREA TO PAY FOR THAAD MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM
“On the THAAD system, it’s about a billion dollars. I said, ‘Why are we paying? Why are we paying a billion dollars? We’re protecting. Why are we paying a billion dollars?’ So I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. Nobody’s going to do that. Why are we paying a billion dollars? It’s a billion dollar system. It’s phenomenal. It’s the most incredible equipment you’ve ever seen – shoots missiles right out of the sky. And it protects them and I want to protect them. We’re going to protect them. But they should pay for that, and they understand that.”
ON WHETHER THE WAR AGAINST ISLAMIST EXTREMISM WILL EVER END
“Yours is the toughest question. Because at what point does it end? But we can’t let them come over here. I have to say, there is an end. And it has to be humiliation. There is an end. Otherwise it’s really tough. But there is an end. We are really eradicating some very bad people. When you take a look at what’s going on with the cutting off of the heads. We haven’t seen that since Medieval times. Right?”
ON CHINESE PRESIDENT XI’S EFFORTS TO REIN IN NORTH KOREA
“He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He’s a good man. He’s a very good man and I got to know him very well …
We’ll see how it all works out. I know he would like to be able to do something. Perhaps it’s possible that he can’t. But I think he’d like to be able to do something.”
ON NORTH KOREAN LEADER KIM JONG UN
“He’s 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime, so say what you want but that’s not easy, especially at that age. You know you have plenty of generals in there and plenty of other people that would like to do what he’s doing. So I’ve said this before and I’ve, I’m just telling you, and I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit. I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do.”
“As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational.”
ON NAFTA AND TRUMP’S THREAT TO TERMINATE PACT
“I get a call from Mexico yesterday, ‘We hear you’re going to terminate NAFTA.’ I said that’s right. They said, ‘Is there any way we can do something without you – without termination?’ I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘Well, we’d like to negotiate.’ I said we’ll think about it. Then I get a call, and they call me, I get a call from Justin Trudeau and he said, ‘We’d like to see if we can work something out,’ and I said that’s fine. Because I’ve always – I’ve been very consistent. It’s much less disruptive if we can make a fair trade deal than if we terminate.”
ON TRADE AGREEMENT WITH SOUTH KOREA
“It’s unacceptable. It’s a horrible deal made by Hillary. It’s a horrible deal. And we’re going to renegotiate that deal, or terminate it.”
QUESTION: When will you announce it?
“Very soon. I’m announcing it now.”
“By the way, with South Korea, just so you know. They’re ready for it. Mike Pence was representing me, he was just over there, he’s told them. And we have the five-year anniversary coming up very shortly. And we thought that would be a good time to start …
It’s a great deal for South Korea. It’s a terrible deal for us.”
ON SAUDI ARABIA’S TREATMENT OF UNITED STATES
“Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia.”
ON ANOTHER CALL WITH TAIWAN’S PRESIDENT?
“Well, my problem is that I’ve established a very good personal relationship with (Chinese) President Xi. And I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation, so I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him … So I would certainly want to speak to him first.”
ON POSSIBLE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
“If there’s closure, there’s closure. We’ll see what happens. If there’s a shutdown. It’s the Democrats’ fault. Not our fault. It’s the Democrats’ fault. Maybe they’d like to see a shutdown.”
ON TRUMP’S PLAN TO GENERATE REVENUE TO OFFSET TAX CUTS
“We will do trade deals that are going to make up for a tremendous amount of the deficit. We are going to be doing trade deals that are going to be much better trade deals …
“There will be other ways that we are going to raise revenues. But we are going to run the country properly, and we are going to be reimbursed when we do things. Why should we be paying for somebody else’s military?”
ON MIDDLE EAST PEACE AND POSSIBLE TRIP TO ISRAEL, SAUDI ARABIA
“It’s a possibility, we’re talking to both. It’s a possibility, but I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever. So we’re looking at that and we’re also looking at the potential of going to Saudi Arabia”.