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Trump thanks 'tremendous' U.S. troops in Christmas Eve calls

The president also downplayed a perceived threat from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

By
Don Jacobson
President Donald Trump speaks on December 21 at a conference at the Palm Beach Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
President Donald Trump speaks on December 21 at a conference at the Palm Beach Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- From his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, President Donald Trump sent Christmas Eve greetings Tuesday to U.S. troops worldwide.

Via multi-split screen video monitor, Trump spoke with members of each branch of the U.S. armed services and thanked them for being "tremendous warriors."

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"You kept the Taliban running scared," he told troops in Afghanistan. "You are incredible people."

Trump reminded the troops they will see a pay raise in January, thanks to a 3.1 percent hike as part of a $738 billion defense spending bill he signed last week.

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"You've earned it," he said.

The defense bill also authorized a new military branch, the Space Force.

"We don't have that represented yet, but that will be very soon. ... That's going to be very exciting," the president said.

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"I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy new year."

Those speaking to the president Tuesday included the Army's 103 Sustained Command in Kuwait; Task Force Southwest 19.2 of the Marine Corps, stationed in Afghanistan; the crew of the Navy ship USS Forest Sherman, located in the Gulf of Aden; the 20th Attack Squadron of the U.S. Air Force in Missouri; and the crew of the Coast Guard's Air Station Sitka in Alaska.

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Speaking to reporters after the video call, Trump dismissed a remark by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who this month said he might send a "Christmas gift" to the United States, which some have interpreted as a thinly-veiled threat to resume missile testing. Trump joked that, perhaps, Kim really sent a gift.

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"Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase," Trump quipped. "I may get a vase. I may get a nice present from him. ... You never know."

Trump arrived at his Palm Beach, Fla., resort on Friday and will remain there through the Christmas holiday before returning to the White House.

Last year, Trump made a surprise visit to U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq the day after Christmas.l

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