WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he had cancelled a planned military parade for November due to high costs and would instead visit Paris to commemorate the end of World War I, a day after the Pentagon postponed the event to at least next year.
Trump had requested a parade to honour U.S. military veterans and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war, after marvelling at the Bastille Day military parade he attended in Paris last year.
But, on Thursday, a U.S. official said the cost of such an event could top $90 million (£70.7 million), nearly three times as much as the White House had earlier estimated. The Defense Department ultimately postponed the event, originally planned for Nov. 10 in Washington.
Trump, in a pair of tweets, said he would instead celebrate the occasion in Paris on Nov. 11, the U.S Veterans Day holiday.
He also said he would attend a parade at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, but gave no date. A spokeswoman at the base was not able to immediately provide the date for the event.
Critics had blasted the planned Washington parade, questioning the lofty cost and the need for it as the Pentagon has sought to stabilise an over-stretched military.
But in Trump’s tweets, the Republican president blamed local Washington officials for seeking a “windfall,” and suggested they were inflating the parade’s costs.
Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, hit back at Trump, saying in a Twitter post that she was “the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).”
“A great celebratory parade costs money, Mr Trump, and it’s YOUR Pentagon that’s suggesting more than $90 million. Don’t blame others,” Washington, D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson, another Democrat, also tweeted.
Republican lawmaker Scott Taylor backed the decision to cancel the parade, saying he did not think it was appropriate to hold such an event while U.S. troops were still fighting in wars overseas.
“I don’t agree that it’s a good idea. We’re still at war right now ... We’re still out there, our people are still out there around the world right now, in harm’s way,” Taylor said in an interview with CNN.
Military parades in the United States are rare and historically have been used to mark the end of a military conflict. In 1991, tanks and thousands of troops paraded through Washington to celebrate the end of the Gulf War.
The Elysee Palace, the official residence of French President Emmanuel Macron, had no immediate comment on Trump’s planned visit.
Reporting by Makini Brice and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Richard Lough in Paris; Editing by Bernadette Baum