The White House praised the relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, just hours after the president criticized Germany on trade and defense.
Spokesman Sean Spicer said on May 30 that Trump and Merkel “get along very well,” adding that the U.S. president “has a lot of respect for her.”
“And he views not just Germany but the rest of Europe as an important American ally," Spicer also said.
In a tweet earlier on May 30, Trump complained on Twitter about the U.S. trade deficit with Germany, the latest salvo in a sharp exchange that began during his visit to Europe and the Middle East last week.
He also warned Germany again that it should spend more on defense in order to support the NATO alliance, and said the situation will have to change.
"We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military," Trump tweeted. "Very bad for U.S. This will change."
The tweet followed repeated criticism from Germany after Trump concluded his first official tour abroad on May 28, returning after a trip that included a NATO meeting in Brussels and a Group of Seven (G7) summit in Italy.
Merkel said on May 30 in Berlin that Germany's relations with the United States were of "outstanding importance" but Berlin must engage with other key countries going forward.
The chancellor, reiterating almost identical statements made on May 28 at an election rally in the German capital, said that "we in Europe have to take our destiny in our own hands," and that "Europe must become a player active in international affairs."
On May 29, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also lashed out at Washington, saying that what he called the Trump administration's "short-sighted policies" went against the interests of the European Union and had "weakened the West."
However, Gabriel signaled on May 30 that it was time for cooler heads to prevail, saying, "It is true that we have a difficult situation in relations between the United States and Germany."
"But the United States are older and bigger than the current conflict and so I think we will return to good relations in the future," he added.
During his first tour abroad, Trump brushed away pressure from the G7 allies to sign up to upholding the 2015 Paris climate deal.
At the G7 summit on May 26-27, Trump announced that it would take more time to say whether the United States will renege on the Paris climate accord that limits greenhouse-gas emissions.
At the NATO meeting on May 25, Trump criticized the 23 alliance members -- including Germany -- that are not meeting a target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa