Trump Meets Abe, Modi and Merkel on G-20 Sidelines

VOA’s White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman in Osaka, Japan, contributed to this report.

U.S. President Donald Trump met Friday morning with several world leaders on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan. 

Trump started his day with summit host Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, followed by short discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — all of whom Trump criticized just hours before he landed in Osaka.

“We’ll be discussing trade, we’ll be discussing military,” Trump said as he met with Abe before heading to the talks. 

Trump, recently, had publicly criticized the U.S.-Japan defense alliance, that has been in place since World War II.

“If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War Three. We will go in and protect them with our lives and with our treasure,” Trump said during a telephone interview with Fox Business News on Wednesday. “We will fight at all costs … but if we are attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch on a Sony television.”

The White House said Trump and Abe had “reaffirmed their commitment to U.S.-Japan coordination on shared security challenges, including on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran.”

In Trump’s meeting with Modi, “the leaders acknowledged the unprecedented breadth and depth of bilateral ties, including economic, trade, energy, defense and security, counterterrorism and space,” according to the White House.

President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi share a fist bump during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019.

Trump also met jointly with Abe and Modi. The three leaders did a joint fist bump for the reporters. Despite earlier complaining about India, Trump said he and Modi have become “great friends” and the two countries “have never been closer.” 

As for Germany, Trump complained once again that Berlin was not contributing enough toward the costs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Merkel and Trump discussed issues “including Iran’s dangerous activity in the Middle East, stabilizing Libya and the Sahel region, and supporting economic reform in Ukraine. The two leaders also reviewed ongoing negotiations with China and establishing fair standards for global trade,” the White House said.

Trump added, “She’s a fantastic person, a fantastic woman and I’m glad to have her as a friend.” 

The most attention Friday, however, will likely be paid to the meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

As he left the White House Thursday, Trump told reporters that he expects a “very good conversation” with Putin but added that “what I say to him is none of your business.”

President Donald Trump and other leaders gather for a group photo at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019.

The two leaders are expected to discuss how to contain Iran, which has threatened to very soon breach uranium enrichment limits set in the 2015 nuclear accord. They will also likely take on the subjects of Syria and Venezuela. 

It is the first meeting between the two leaders since special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation failed to find evidence that the Trump campaign had criminally conspired with Russia during the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

Last November, Trump canceled a meeting with Putin at the G-20 in Argentina after Russia seized two Ukrainian vessels and their crew in the Sea of Azov, but the continued detention of those crew members does not appear to be deterring the leaders from meeting this time. 

On Saturday, Trump is scheduled to meet with China’s Xi Jinping when they are likely to discuss trade after a breakdown in negotiations and an escalation of tariffs by both sides.

After the summit, Trump flies to Seoul to discuss with South Korean President Moon Jae-in ways to ease tensions with North Korea. There has been speculation that the U.S. president will make a visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, but U.S. officials have ruled out a meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un while the U.S. president is on the peninsula.