President Donald Trump says the United States would be “punishing itself” if it halted weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, as pressure mounts on him to take action over the suspected murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

“I actually think we’d be punishing ourselves if we did that,” Trump told reporters on Saturday at the White House, adding, “There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong and we’ll do them.”

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and a US resident, disappeared on October 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities believe he was tortured and killed inside the building by a team of Saudi operatives who removed his dismembered body.

Trump, who has forged close ties with Saudi Arabia, has come under pressure at home and abroad to punish Riyadh if investigations show the regime had Khashoggi killed.

Trump did not say what measures his administration would take if Saudi Arabia is found to be responsible, but he made clear any punishment would not involve suspending the arms deals. 

PressTV-Trump: US will punish Saudi if it killed journalist

Trump has vowed "severe punishment" if Saudi Arabia is proven to be behind the purported assassination of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

He further defended a $110 billion arms deal he announced with Riyadh last year, insisting that the deal was worth 450,000 jobs inside the US.

“If they don’t buy it from us, they’re going to buy it from Russia or they’re going to buy it from China,” said the president. “Think of that, $110 billion, all they’re going to do is give it to other countries, and I think that would be very foolish.”

PressTV-'Turkish officials have proof of Khashoggi assassination'

Turkish officials have evidence proving Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in Turkey by Saudi operatives.

Major US military contractors, including Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co, are among the beneficiaries of Washington’s cozy ties with Riyadh and would suffer huge losses if contracts with Saudi Arabia are suspended.

In recent days, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have demanded severe consequences if Saudi Arabia is proven to be behind the disappearance of Khashoggi. 

Even before that, some lawmakers had placed "holds" on at least four military deals with Saudi Arabia over the kingdom’s military aggression in Yemen.