President Trump said Monday that the United States will be “going to Mars very soon” as he announced new cooperation between the U.S. and Japan in sending humans to space, though he did not give a timetable.
“I am pleased to confirm that Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed to dramatically expand our nations’ cooperation in human space exploration,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. “Japan will join our mission to send U.S. astronauts to space.”
Trump added, “We'll be going to the moon. We'll be going to Mars very soon. It's very exciting. And from a military standpoint, there is nothing more important right now than space.”
Trump did not provide additional details. But earlier this year, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said of the U.S.’s space ambitions: “The moon is the proving ground; Mars is the horizon goal.”
In February,Trump directed the Department of Defense to draft legislation creating a so-called Space Force within the U.S. Air Force.
In March, Vice President Mike Pence urged NASA to accelerate its moon-landing program, moving it up from 2028 to 2024.
Meanwhile, Trump also said during the press conference he is not "personally" bothered by recent short-range North Korean missile tests and doesn't believe they violated U.N. Security Council resolutions, breaking with Abe, who is hosting the president on a four-day state visit full of pageantry and pomp.
Trump also continued his attacks against former Vice President and 2020 Democratic hopeful Joe Biden, siding with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, who recently criticized Biden as having a low IQ.
The visit was designed to highlight the U.S.-Japan alliance and showcase the warm relations between the leaders. Trump said he and Abe deliberated over economic issues, including trade and Iran, during hours of talks at the Akasaka Palace. But North Korea's recent firing of short-range missiles emerged as an area of disagreement at a press conference Monday.
Asked if he was bothered by the missile tests, Trump said: "No, I'm not. I am personally not."
Japan has long voiced concern about short-range missiles because of the threat they pose to the island nation's security.
Standing beside Trump at a news conference held after hours of talks, Abe, who has forged a strong friendship with Trump and showered him with praise throughout the day, disagreed with the U.S. president, saying the missile tests were "of great regret."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.