LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Leaders of the world's major economies, including President Trump, are meeting in France at the G-7 summit this weekend. And they had an unannounced visitor today. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew in this afternoon. He's there for talks with the French about the stalemate over Iran's nuclear program. NPR's Frank Langfitt is covering the summit in the French resort of Biarritz. Hi, Frank.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.
FADEL: So, Frank, was Zarif's visit expected?
LANGFITT: No, it wasn't. You know, the host, French President Emmanuel Macron, he seems to have sprung this on the leaders who've come here. French newspapers are saying the American delegation was told yesterday. Now, remember, President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last year, and the U.S. has Iran under crippling sanctions. The relations between the two countries are very bad. The Iranians are saying they do not expect - there's no plans to meet with the Americans. And asked about Zarif's visit today, Trump said no comment, which is not something you often hear from the American president. And for his part, you know, Macron is reportedly trying to find a way to soften the sanctions and reduce the tensions with the Americans.
FADEL: Now, President Trump is famous for throwing other leaders off balance. So is Macron just returning the favor here?
LANGFITT: It certainly seems that way. You know, you remember last year, Trump left the G-7 early. He refused to sign the communique. This was in Canada. And if Macron is worried about Trump walking out again, he's sure not showing it. Yesterday, Macron approached Trump for an impromptu lunch with TV cameras, which may have been to tell him about the Iranians coming. Trump didn't look very happy. He was kind of, you know, stone-faced. And Macron - of course, he's the host here in France, and he seems to be kind of doing what he wants.
FADEL: So another topic of conversation at the summit is the U.S. trade war with China, which has been battering stocks around the world, raising fears of a recession. What did the president have to say about it today?
LANGFITT: Well, not much that was new, Leila, except he seemed to express - at least it sounded like - some doubt about the continuing - the countries sort of continuing to slap each other with more and more tariffs. Reporters asked him this morning if he had any second thoughts. And he said this. He said - this is the quote - "yeah, sure, why not? Might as well. Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything."
FADEL: Well, self-doubt is really not a signature of this presidency.
LANGFITT: No, it isn't.
FADEL: So did he seem to mean what he said?
LANGFITT: It's always hard to say with this president, but the White House, they quickly walked it back. They said the press had greatly misinterpreted the answer and what the president really meant was he was regretting not raising the tariffs higher, which makes no sense at all in the terms of the context of the question.
FADEL: Now, the economies of the United Kingdom and Germany are struggling. Did their countries' leaders put any pressure on Trump regarding the trade war and its impact on the global economy?
LANGFITT: Well, the president insists that they didn't at all, and he said that they respect the trade war. But U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson - ever so gently this morning when he was with President Trump, he registered his concerns. And this is the way that Johnson put it.
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PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: I just want to say I congratulate the president on everything that the American economy is achieving. It's fantastic to see that. But just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we’re in favor of trade peace on the whole. We don't like tariffs on the whole.
FADEL: Finally, North Korea tested a new multiple rocket launcher Saturday. This is making its neighbor, Japan, worried as always. What did Trump and Prime Minister Abe have to say about this?
LANGFITT: Well, the president said he wasn't happy about it, but he seemed to kind of downplay it. He said the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, had wrote him a nice letter last week and the test didn't violate any agreements. Abe disputed this, saying it did violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and called this test extremely regrettable. And Trump said he hadn't discussed short-range missiles with Kim and then added that lots of countries are testing missiles these days. He said, we're in the world of missiles, folks, whether you like it or not.
FADEL: And that was in front of America's top ally in Asia. Thank you, Frank. NPR's Frank Langfitt in France.
LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.