World

Trump reaffirms 'unshakable commitment' to NATO, British PM says

British Prime Minister Theresa May said U.S. President Donald Trump has reaffirmed both countries' "unshakable commitment" to the NATO military alliance.

Theresa May meets Trump in Washington in president's 1st first meeting with a foreign leader

U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May participate in a joint press conference at the White House on Friday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Theresa May said U.S. President Donald Trump has reaffirmed both countries' "unshakable commitment" to the NATO military alliance.

Trump had rattled European allies by suggesting NATO is "obsolete" and that the United States might not come to the aid of countries that don't meet targets for their own defence spending.

May's comments after their meeting Friday are meant to put that concern to rest. She said the two also agreed it is important for member countries to "invest properly to face our shared challenges together."

Trump discusses Mexico, Russia 

Trump also acknowledged speaking with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who on Thursday backed out of a planned visit to Washington.

Trump has issued an executive order declaring the U.S. will build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump and former president Vicente Fox subsequently engaged in a Twitter spat over who would pay for the wall. Nieto cancelled his visit shortly thereafter.

​Trump: 'I have great respect for Mexico' 1:10

Trump said Friday he wanted to have good relations with Russia, but he declined to say whether he was ready to lift sanctions on Moscow, which May said must stay in place.

Speaking at a news conference after his first meeting with a foreign leader at the White House since becoming president, Trump said he hoped to have a "fantastic relationship" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he said it was possible that would not occur.

Any move by the White House to lift sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine would likely cause consternation among European allies who believe sanctions should be lifted only if Moscow complies with the West's conditions on Ukraine.

A number of high-profile Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said the sanctions should remain.

"As far as the sanctions, [it is] very early to be talking about that," Trump said.

Trump: 'We will see what happens' 0:36

May made clear Britain wants to continue sanctions until Putin carries out the requirements in a ceasefire agreement arranged in Minsk, Belarus, in 2014. This view is shared by European allies, who fear Putin could become more expansionist if he feels Trump will not intervene.

"We believe the sanctions should continue until we see the Minsk agreement fully implemented. And we've been continuing to argue that inside the European Union," May said.

Chummy with May 

The boisterous Trump and reserved May took pains to demonstrate a readiness to maintain close ties between the United States and Britain, something that is particularly important for May as she steers Britain out of the European Union.

They posed for photos before a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office and Trump accepted an invitation from the Queen to visit Britain this year.

Trump and May discussed security, trade and their commitment to NATO during a briefing at the White House on Friday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

The two leaders held hands briefly as they walked down the White House colonnade to their news conference in the East Room. Later, they lunched on beef short ribs in the State Dining Room.

At the news conference, Trump showed flashes of the pugnacious willingness to dispense with formality that helped him win the Nov. 8 election, registering his displeasure when a British reporter asked him what he had to say to those who are "worried about you becoming the leader of the free world."

"This was your choice of a question?" Trump said with a half smile. Then, nodding toward May as laughter erupted, he added: "There goes that relationship."

Trump: 'I think Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing' 0:54

With files from Reuters