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Obama Warns of a Global Threat Called Donald Trump

At the G7 economic summit, Obama says Trump is already damaging U.S. standing by "rattling" global leaders.

G7
G7

President Barack Obama said world leaders at the G7 summit in Japan were “rattled” by the rise of Donald Trump — and “with good reason.”

President Barack Obama said world leaders at the G7 summit in Japan were “rattled” by the rise of Donald Trump — and “with good reason.”

“They are surprised by the Republican nominee,” Obama said at a news conference early Thursday in Shima City, Japan. “They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements. But they’re rattled by him, and for good reason, because a lot of the proposals he’s made display either ignorance of world affairs, or a cavalier attitude, or an interest in getting tweets and headlines, instead of actually thinking through what it is required to keep America safe and secure and prosperous, and what it takes to keep the world on an even keel.”

With global attention increasingly turning to the U.S. presidential election, foreign leaders and diplomats are expressing concern and confusion about an array of pronouncements from the presumptive GOP nominee, who has railed against international trade agreements and threatened to reduce U.S. involvement in security alliances like NATO. Obama says Trump comes up constantly in his meetings, though he assures international partners that Trump won’t be elected to replace him in the White House.

Japanese leaders in particular have been alarmed by Trump’s suggestion that the United States pull its troops from the country and nearby South Korea, encouraging them to develop their own nuclear weapons so the two nations could defend themselves without relying on Washington. Many observers have also been thrown by Trump’s 1980s-style accusations that Japan is taking advantage of the United States when it comes to trade deals.

Trump also said May 17 that he’d “absolutely” sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to try to negotiate a deal for him to give up his nuclear weapons, a move that some experts say would hand the reclusive leader a propaganda win.

While the Japanese Embassy told Foreign Policy after Trump’s North Korea comments, “We refrain from commenting on every statement made by each candidate in the U.S. presidential election,” it also pushed back at his suggestion.

“It is vital that North Korea demonstrate its firm commitment to denuclearization … without taking further provocative actions,” the embassy said in a statement on May 19.

As the last man standing in the Republican nominating contest, Trump is turning his attention toward likely general election opponent Hillary Clinton, well-known to the international community from her tenure as Obama’s first secretary of state.

But Obama declined to weigh in on Clinton’s ongoing battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has resisted pressure to drop out or tone down his rhetoric though he faces a nearly insurmountable deficit in the delegate count. Obama said in a drawn-out primary, it’s natural for there to be “grumpiness,” and a “build-up in aggravation,” pointing to his own long and at times bitter contest against Clinton in 2008. He expressed confidence that the party can come together by the Democratic convention in July and win in November.

“That kind of day-to-day choppiness is not indicative of longer-term trends,” he said.

“Would it be nice if everybody was immediately unified and singing kumbaya and whoever the nominee ended up being could take a nice two-week vacation and recharge? Absolutely,” he continued. “But these are folks who are serious about trying to solve the country’s problems.… They’re going to hold up, and by time we get to the convention, I’m confident they’ll be in good shape.”

Hours before Obama spoke abroad, riots and violence broke out at a Wednesday afternoon campaign stop for the GOP front-runner back home in California, underscoring the president’s comments about the risks of Trump’s divisive comments. One of the largest prizes in the 2016 election, California holds its primary on June 7.  

Photo credit: THE ASAHI SHIMBUN/Contributor

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