President Donald Trump today abruptly concluded his nearly two-week maiden tour of East Asia as president, declaring progress on security issues and trade while skipping a final meeting with regional leaders.
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“We’ve accomplished a lot. I enjoyed it very much,” Trump said, appearing unannounced before cameras in the lobby of a conference center hosting the East Asia Summit.
“My press — I feel so sorry for them. They are exhausted. Would you like to stop in a couple other countries? Because we can do that if you want,” he said, motioning to the horde of reporters. “Otherwise, we’ll go to the plane, and we’ll take off, and we’ll be landing in Washington in about 22 hours.”
Trump had extended his itinerary by one day in order to attend the summit plenary session. But with the program running several hours behind schedule, he decided to deliver his remarks over lunch and then bolt.
“The lunch was great. Everybody was there. They were delayed three hours, as you probably heard. There was a delay for some reason. But we had a lunch, and they let me make my opening — my ending remarks at the lunch. So that was really great,” he told reporters on Air Force One just after taking off today from Manila.
Trump departed just before 3:20 p.m. local time, right on schedule, according to guidance the White House released Monday night. He was due back in Washington late today after a refueling stop in Hawaii.
Before leaving, Trump put a positive spin on his visits to five countries, complimenting his hosts and giving special praise to China, where elaborate ceremonies during his stay captured his attention and admiration.
He visited Asia with a two-pronged message on free and fair trade and collective security to confront North Korea.
“I’ve said very loud and very clear, the U.S. has been taken advantage of. They’re very giving, and they don’t get in return,” Trump said. “So we want fair trade, and we want reciprocal trade.”
He will hold an event later in the week to discuss concrete outcomes of his trip, according to the White House.
“It’s been an incredible 12 days,” Trump said. “I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I’ve made a lot of friends at the highest level.”