President Donald Trump signaled Monday he would not support legislation to stiffen gun laws after a 26-year-old man killed more than 20 people at a church in Texas on Sunday.
“Mental health is your problem here. This was a very … deranged individual,” the president said during a news conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, had “a lot of problems over a long period of time.”
“But this isn’t a guns situation. … It’s a little bit soon to go into it. Fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise … it would have been much worse,” Trump said, calling the mass murder “a mental health problem at the highest level.”
The main topic during the two leaders’ appearance before U.S. and Japanese reporters was North Korea, which is expected to dominate Trump’s first trip to the region as president.
Trump and Abe both struck a tough tone toward Pyongyang in the standoff over its nuclear arms and long-range missile program.
Trump described the isolated nation’s recent nuclear and missile tests as “dangerous aggressions” and called its weapons programs “unlawful” and its nuclear tests “illegal.” The North Korean government is a “threat to the civilized world” and “international peace and stability,” he said.
“We will not stand for that. The era of ‘strategic patience’ is over,” Trump said several days after one of his top national security advisers signaled that any U.S. military action is months away. “Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong. But look what’s happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we’re at right now.”
Abe said he and Trump are “together 100 percent,” adding that he supports the American commander in chief’s stance that “all options are on the table.” The international community has tried to dialogue with North Korea for decades, but Pyongyang has responded by breaking its own promises to abandon its weapons programs while continuing to develop them in secret.
To counter North Korea’s missiles, Japan intends to buy “massive amounts” of military equipment from the United States, Trump said. He pointed to F-35 fighter jets and “missiles of many different kinds.”
“We will be buying more from the United States,” Abe said, adding Aegis guided missile system-equipped naval ships to the list.
Trump noted such an uptick in military deals would create jobs for Americans and greater security for Japan.
The U.S. president often uses hard-line rhetoric when discussing what he intends to do about North Korea. On Monday, Abe joined him in doing so.
There is “no point in dialogue for the sake for dialogue with North Korea,” Abe said.
Now is a “time not for dialogue, but for maximum pressure on North Korea,” the Japanese leader said, adding: “No one likes conflict. I don’t like it, Mr. Trump neither. But North Korea continues its provocation.”
The duo was also asked about trade in the Asia-Pacific region ahead of a major summit of regional leaders next week.
Trump made clear he intends later during his 12-day Asian swing to press Chinese President Xi Jinping on making U.S.-China trade more of a two-way street. He promised “strong action” by the United States under his administration in cracking down on unjust trade actions, and repeated his demand that trade between the two countries must become “reciprocal.”
Trump argued again Monday that U.S. companies get a raw deal in China, and he remains frustrated by Chinese tactics that cost American companies intellectual property claims over their technologies and products.