How did world leaders react to Trump's speech to Congress?


U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives iin Washington, U.S., February 28, 2017. 

REUTERS/Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool - RTS10VWF

In President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night, he largely avoided some of the more combative rhetoric he’s used in the past, winning plaudits for his reserved delivery from domestic observers (and even from some critics.)

But how is the speech playing overseas?

Worldwide reaction to the president’s address was mixed, with some international leaders reacting with cautious optimism, and others finding cause for criticism.

President Trump's Congress address 03:42

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, commended Mr. Trump’s proposal to increase defense spending, according to the Associated Press. Suga said Japan would await the final price tag of the increased spending but suggested the move, generally speaking, would enhance international stability.

The Japanese, the AP notes, had been anxious about their security posture and the future of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, given past comments from Mr. Trump about Japan not pulling its weight, and given recent provocative behavior by North Korea.

The Chinese government, by contrast, offered a more skeptical reaction to Mr. Trump’s speech – specifically the president’s claim that America has lost “60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization.”

According to Voice of America, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, argued that the U.S.-China trade relationship produces mutual benefits for both sides. He highlighted a recent report from the U.S. China Business Council that found that bilateral trade and investment between the two countries yielded 2.65 million U.S. jobs in 2015, saying the figure “speaks volumes.”

One country that was conspicuously not mentioned in Mr. Trump’s address was Russia – a country with which the president wants to forge better ties, and one the intelligence community believes hacked the 2016 U.S. election to aid Mr. Trump.

If the Russians were hurt by their absence from Mr. Trump’s remarks, though, they weren’t showing it. According to the Associated Press, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said it’s “natural” that Mr. Trump “is busy with American affairs while our president Putin is busy with Russian affairs.”

Mr. Trump did utter one line that some interpreted as a reference to his drive to seek better relations with Russia, saying America must be “willing to find new friends.” Asked about that line, Peskov acknowledged the two countries have an “overlap of interests,” according to the AP.

On the issue of immigration, Mr. Trump seemed to be of two minds on Tuesday. On one hand, the president suggested he’s interested in a broad reform of the immigration system to make entry to the U.S. more merit-based – a signal that he may be pivoting away from the enforcement-heavy approach he embraced during the campaign. He even suggested Republicans and Democrats should work together to reform the system. On the other hand, Mr. Trump continued referencing his plans to deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, suggesting he may not be changing his tone on immigration all that much. 

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who’s previously feuded with Mr. Trump on the issue of immigration, suggested in a tweet Tuesday night that the American president should indeed build a wall – around himself.