Trump says U.S. isn’t seeking regime change in Iran

Author: CBS News
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at Akasaka Palace, Monday, May 27, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at Akasaka Palace, Monday, May 27, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump said Monday that the United States is not seeking regime change in Iran, and that he can envision the U.S. making a new deal with Tehran one day to contain its nuclear program. Several of the president’s hard-line advisers are thought to be in favor of regime change in Iran, including his National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Tension between the two nations has increased significantly in recent weeks.

Mr. Trump made the remarks during a joint news conference on Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. President Trump was three days into a four-day state visit to Japan, where he and Abe have focused on North Korea, U.S.-Japanese trade and Tehran.

Mr. Trump said U.S.-Japanese unity on policies toward Pyongyang was “steadfast and ironclad,” with an approach of “peace through strength.”

North Korea has great economic potential, he said, but its leader Kim Jong Un knows it won’t be realized if the North presses on with its nuclear weapons program. He repeated that he was not “personally bothered” by Pyongyang’s recent tests of short-range missiles. Bolton has harshly criticized the tests.

The president said Tokyo and Washington were working toward a new trade deal to benefit both nations, and vowed to cut the U.S. trade deficit with Japan. The president said he wanted Japan to remove barriers to U.S. exports.

Mr. Trump also took swipes at Democrats at home, saying they can’t understand how the Mueller report found no collusion and no obstruction, and repeated his contention that the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden, has a low-IQ and saying again that North Korea’s Kim thinks so, too.

Earlier Monday, Mr. Trump became the first world leader to meet Japan’s new emperor.

Trump optimistic on trade with Asia

At their joint news conference following hours of private talks, Mr. Trump and Abe largely glossed over their differences on trade, despite the potentially crippling tariffs on foreign autos that Mr. Trump is threatening to impose on Japan and the European Union.

President Trump declined to say what Japan would have to do to avoid those tariffs, but complained of an “unbelievably large” trade imbalance with the nation.

Still, he said he expects to reach trade deals at some point with both Japan and China, but wouldn’t rush it.

Risk of entrenched U.S.-China trade war rising, economists say

“I think we will have a deal with Japan. Likewise, I think we will have a deal with China sometime into the future,” he said.Mr. Trump has tried to pressure China by slapping tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods.

“I don’t believe that China can continue to pay these really hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs,” he said.

Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet during a world leaders’ summit next month in Osaka, Japan.

Trump meets families of abductees

Families of Japanese who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s have thanked President Donald Trump for his sympathy and for meeting with them while visiting Japan.

Mr. Trump met the relatives on Monday. He appeared to listen intently to their accounts of their ordeals.

Shigeo Iizuka, whose sister was abducted in the 1970s, asked Mr. Trump for his cooperation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to get North Korea to return the victims.

Sakie Yokota, whose daughter was abducted in 1977, said Mr. Trump gave the families hope for a breakthrough. Many elderly relatives say they’re running out of time to see their loved ones.

Mr. Trump said he supports Abe’s intent to meet with North Korea’s leader to resolve the issue.

Disagreement on North Korea

Abe disagreed with Mr. Trump on the North Korean tests of short-range missiles, which the Japanese leaders said had violated U.N. Security Council resolutions and were “of great regret.”

Abe, who has forged a strong friendship with Mr. Trump and agrees with him on many issues, is concerned because the short-range missiles pose a threat to Japan’s security.

During hours of talks at Japan’s Akasaka Palace, Mr. Trump and Abe deliberated over economic issues, including trade and Iran, but North Korea’s recent firing of the short-range missiles emerged as an area of disagreement.

When asked if he was bothered by Pyongyang’s short-range missile tests, Mr. Trump said: “No, I’m not. I am personally not.”

The president has sought to downplay the significance of the missile tests, despite the fact that Bolton said over the weekend that they violated U.N. resolutions. Mr. Trump continues to hold out hope of eventually getting Kim to agree to give up his nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, despite two summits he’s had with the North Korean leader that produced no concrete pledge to denuclearize the peninsula.

Mr. Trump praised Kim, calling him a “smart man” who might have launched the missiles earlier this month to “get attention.”

“All I know is there have been no nuclear tests, no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out and I think that someday we’ll have a deal,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he is in “no rush.”

The president was correct to say North Korea has not recently tested a long-range missile that could reach the U.S. But earlier this month, North Korea fired off a series of short-range missiles that alarmed U.S. allies in closer proximity to North Korea, including Japan. The tests broke a pause in North Korea’s ballistic missile launches that began in late 2017.

“This is violating the Security Council resolution,” Abe said, adding that, as North Korea’s neighbor, Japan feels threatened. “It is of great regret. But at the same time between Kim Jong Un and President Trump a certain new approach was taken and that is something that I pay tribute to.”

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