Mexico City: Standing alongside the President of Mexico, a measured Donald Trump defended the right of the United States to build a massive border wall along its southern flank, but he declined to repeat his frequent promise to force Mexico to pay for it.
Trump, the US presidential candidate who is widely despised across Mexico, also sidestepped his repeated
criticism of Mexican immigrants following a closed-door meeting on Wednesday at the official residence of the country's president, Enrique Pena Nieto.
Trump and Pena Nieto, who has compared the New York billionaire to Adolf Hitler, addressed reporters from adjacent podiums flanked by a Mexican flag. "We did discus the wall. We didn't discuss payment of the wall," Trump said.
In his announcement of his presidential candidacy last year, Trump derided Mexico as a source of rapists and criminals coming to the US, and his presence sparked anger and protests across the capital city.
A former Mexican president bluntly told the celebrity businessman that, despite Pena Nieto's hospitality, he was not welcome. "We don't like him. We don't want him. We reject his visit," former President Vicente Fox told CNN, calling the trip a "political stunt."
Pena Nieto was less combative as he addressed reporters alongside Trump. He acknowledged the two men had differences, but he described their conversation as "open and constructive." They shook hands as the session ended.
The trip, a politically risky move for Trump 10 weeks before America's presidential Election Day, came just hours before the Republican nominee was to deliver a highly anticipated speech in Arizona about illegal immigration.
That has been a defining issue of Trump's presidential campaign, but also one on which he's appeared to waver in recent days.
After saying during his Republican primary campaign he would use a "deportation force" to expel all of the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally, Trump suggested last week he could soften that stance. But he still says he plans to build a huge wall – paid for by Mexico – along the two nations' border.
He is under pressure to clarify just where he stands in a speech that's been rescheduled several times as he and his staff has sent varied and conflicting messages on the issue.