Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President DonaldTrump listen to a question during a press conference in the East Room of the White House March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Xinhua/AFP PHOTO)
WASHINGTON, March 17 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday reiterated his support to NATO, but urged its members to "pay their fair share for the cost of defense."
"Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe," Trump said at a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump added that he thanked Merkel for Germany's commitment to increase defense spending and work toward contributing at least two percent of GDP to defense.
Merkel said Germany has committed to this two percent goal by 2024, adding that last year the country's defense spending grew by 8 percent. She also said she is "gratified" to know that Trump underlined how important he thinks NATO is.
In a January interview with European media, Trump said NATO was "obsolete because it was not taking care of terror," and he complained that various members of the bloc were not paying their dues, which was "very unfair to the United States."
Following his inauguration, Trump has toned down his criticism on NATO, reaffirming on several occasions his strong support to the bloc. However, he continued to call on NATO members to meet their financial obligations.
At the press conference, Trump defended the White House for quoting a Fox News report on Britain's alleged role in tapping his phone, amid a diplomatic row between the close allies.
On Thursday evening, White House spokesman Sean Spicer repeated a Fox News report that British intelligence agency GCHQ was used by former U.S. President Barack Obama to spy on Trump Tower in the lead-up to last November's election.
The comments prompted GCHQ to issue a public statement that said "recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."
Trump said on Friday that "we did nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television."
"You shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox," he added.
U.S. media reported that the White House has apologized to the British government after Spicer's comment. U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster spoke with his British counterpart Mark Lyall Grant on Thursday about the incident, saying that Britain's "concerns were understood and heard," according to CNN.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday the White House has assured the British government that the allegations that British intelligence services spied on Trump will not be repeated, according to British newspaper The Telegraph.
Britain "made it clear" to the United States that the "ridiculous" claims should be ignored and received assurances in return that they will not be repeated, showing that the administration does not give them any credence, May's spokesman said.
At Friday's press conference, Trump also repeated his claim that Obama had tapped his phone, despite that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has found no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the U.S. government.
"At least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said to Merkel, in reference to reports that the U.S. tapped the German leader's phone during the Obama administration.