President Barack Obama said Thursday that world leaders he had spoken with were "rattled" by the presence of Donald Trump as a candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential race — and he offered his own harsh criticism of the bombastic billionaire.
Speaking to reporters in the coastal Japanese city of Ise Shima, after the first day of an annual summit of leaders of the world's seven wealthiest nations, the president said the world was paying close attention because "the United States is at the heart of the international order."
Later in the day, Trump brushed off Obama's recounting of world leaders' views of him, saying, "If they're rattled in a friendly way, that's a good thing."
Trump has dominated the race for the Republican presidential nomination based on his controversial statements about Hispanic immigrants and Muslims. He has also called for withdrawing U.S. forces from Japan and South Korea and arming those countries with nuclear weapons to counter the threat from North Korea.
Obama said his fellow leaders were "not sure how seriously to take some of [Trump's] pronouncements," which "display either ignorance of world affairs, or a cavalier attitude, or an interest in getting tweets and headlines."
The U.S. president said he and the other G-7 leaders discussed the challenges facing the global economy on the first day of the summit, and ways to "sustain the momentum of the recovery that's taking place in the United States."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented a grimmer view of the global economy, comparing current economic conditions with those of 2008, when the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers triggered a global economic recession.
Many observers believe Abe was making those comparisons to give him cover for delaying a planned increase in Japan's consumption tax.
Terrorism, maritime security
Friday's agenda at the G-7 will include terrorism and maritime security. The last point is an obvious nod to China's increasing territorial expansion in the resource-rich South China Sea, in the face of rival claims by its Asia-Pacific neighbors.
After the summit, Obama will travel to Hiroshima, where tens of thousands of Japanese were killed when a U.S. warplane dropped the world's first atomic bomb in 1945, hastening the end of World War II.