President Donald Trump praised troops and touted the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling when Air Force One made a refueling stop Thursday in Alaska as the president returned from Asia.

Trump was traveling back to Washington after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un finished in Vietnam.

Trump said: “America does not seek conflict, but if we are forced to defend ourselves we will fight and we will win in an overwhelming fashion.”

President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Standing in front of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet at an Anchorage base, Trump thanked all those serving in the military in Alaska, “our country’s last frontier as America’s first line of defense.”

He noted that since World War II, Alaska-based troopers have served as the top cover for North America.

“You are a powerful warning to the world to never strike American soil,” Trump said. “You are a warning that everybody knows about and nobody wants to play with.”

President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump said he’s always had a special place in his heart for Alaska, which likely stems from a grandfather who ventured north to look for gold.

The president said his grandfather didn’t find gold but opened hotels for others who also traveled north to seek their fortunes.

“My grandfather was up in Alaska for a long time. He was looking for gold. He was searching for gold. He didn’t find it, but he started opening up little hotels for those looking for gold, and it worked out. But he was up in — and maybe that’s why I’ve always had a very special place in my heart for Alaska,” Trump said.

Trump touted legislation to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, an effort finalized after decades of fierce disputes between Republicans and Democrats.

President Donald Trump arrives at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans said the drilling plan would help pay for tax cuts approved by Congress and signed by Trump in December 2017. GOP lawmakers project at least $1 billion in revenue from drilling leases over 10 years. 

The administration plan calls for at least two major lease sales, each on a minimum of 625 square miles (1,619 square kilometers) in the refuge’s coastal plain. Surface development would be limited to 3 square miles (8 square kilometers).

President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump praised Alaska’s new governor, Republican Mike Dunleavy, who flew in for the ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. “He said, ‘We really appreciate you got that done,'” Trump said of the conversation he had with Dunleavy about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“He’s not only one of the best governors in the United States, he’s definitely the largest,” Trump said of Dunleavy, who stands 6 feet, 7 inches (over 2 meters) tall.

President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump talked about missile defense system has been strengthened.

“We’ll also deploy 20 more ground-based interceptors to Fort Greeley, which will further strengthen our missile defense system. So important. Missile defense system is also being rebuilt very substantially.  And we’re going to have the latest and the greatest. Unfortunately, as soon as you have it, you have to redo it because, after about six months, everything becomes obsolete in this world.  Right? We do that, they do this. We do that, they do this.  It’s never ending. But that’s the way it goes. It’s a cycle.”

President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks to service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.