U.S. President Donald Trump canceled a visit to an American cemetery outside Paris Saturday during the president’s visit to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
A White House statement said the president’s visit was canceled because of scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather.
Instead, an American delegation led by Chief of Staff General John Kelly and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford visited the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial under gray skies and drizzle, paying respect to the nearly 2,300 war dead buried there.
The area was the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918. In addition to the 2,288 graves of American soldiers, the cemetery contains a memorial to 1,060 service members who went missing in action.
Also Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held hands during a ceremony at the site in the Compiegne Forest, north of Paris, where allies and defeated Germans signed the agreement that ended World War One.
On Sunday, Armistice Day, Trump will join dozens of world leaders at a centenary ceremony at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. The ceremony is to remember the fallen soldiers of a century ago in the war that ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
On Saturday morning, Trump and Macron discussed their differences about European security. The meeting came soon after Donald Trump arrived in Paris and criticized his host via Twitter, calling Macron’s support for a European military force “very insulting.”
In the touchdown tweet, Trump suggested Europe first pay “its fair share” of NATO before contemplating a Europe-wide force.
As they began their meeting Saturday morning at the Elysee Palace, the U.S. president again called for better burden sharing for the cost of defending Europe.
“We want a strong Europe,” said Trump.
Macron replied: “I do believe we need more European capacities, more European defense.”
Trump and Macron avoided any criticism of each other in front of the media.
Macron, during a visit to the World War One Western Front at Verdun, told Europe 1 radio that in face of a revived threat from Moscow that Europe needed to “defend itself better alone” and Europeans cannot protect themselves without a “true European army.”
Macron, in the interview, also blasted Trump’s recent announcement that Washington will withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) limiting nuclear weapons that U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to.
The “main victim” of the withdrawal, Macron argued, is “Europe and its security.”
French officials, however, say — without elaborating — there was a misunderstanding by Trump about Macron’s comments, noting the U.S. president told his French counterpart in their Saturday meeting: “I think we are much closer than it seems.”