Trump calls Ja­pan ‘cru­cial ally’ as he kicks off Asia trip

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

FUSSA, Ja­pan (AP) — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump praised Ja­pan as a “cru­cial ally” and warned ad­ver­saries not to test Amer­ica’s re­solve Sun­day as he opened a gru­el­ing and con­se­quen­tial first trip to Asia.

Trump landed at Yokota Air Base on the out­skirts of Tokyo and was greeted by cheer­ing ser­vice mem­bers. Trump then donned a bomber jacket for a speech in which he touted Amer­i­can fire­power and the U.S. al­liance with Ja­pan.

“Ja­pan is a trea­sured part­ner and cru­cial ally of the United States and to­day we thank them for wel­com­ing us and for decades of won­der­ful friend­ship be­tween our two na­tions,” he said, speak­ing in front of an Amer­i­can flag in­side an air­plane han­gar.

Trump was ex­pected to spend much of his 12day, five-coun­try Asian tour ex­hort­ing al­lies and ri­vals to step up ef­forts to counter the dan­gers posed by North Korea, which con­tin­ues to move for­ward with its nu­clear weapons pro­gram. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been en­gaged in an es­ca­lat­ing war of words, with Trump re­peat­edly re­fer­ring to Un as “Lit­tle Rocket Man” and threat­en­ing in a re­cent speech to “to­tally de­stroy” the na­tion, if nec­es­sary.

Even be­fore he landed, Trump used the first mo­ments of the trip to de­nounce the North as “a big prob­lem” that must “be solved.”

“There’s been 25 years of to­tal weak­ness, so we are tak­ing a very much dif­fer­ent ap­proach” to­ward the North, he told re­porters trav­el­ing with him.

Dur­ing the speech, Trump did not men­tion North Korea by name, but warned of the con­se­quences of cross­ing what he called the “most fear­some fight­ing force in the his­tory of our world.”

“To­gether with our al­lies, Amer­ica’s war­riors are pre­pared to de­fend our na­tion us­ing the full range of our un­matched ca­pa­bil­i­ties. No one — no dic­ta­tor, no regime and no na­tion — should un­der­es­ti­mate, ever, Amer­i­can re­solve,” Trump told the troops.

Some re­gional an­a­lysts have spec­u­lated that Trump’s pres­ence in Asia may prompt North Korea to take provoca­tive ac­tion, like an­other mis­sile test. Trump, when asked about that pos­si­bil­ity aboard Air Force One, said “we’ll soon find out.”

Af­ter the speech, Trump flew by he­li­copter to the Ka­sum­i­gaseki Coun­try Club about 20 miles out­side of Tokyo for lunch and a round of golf with Ja­pan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Ja­panese golfer Hideki Mat­suyama. An avid golfer, Trump said Mat­suyama is “prob­a­bly the great­est player in the his­tory of Ja­pan.”

Trump and Abe have struck up a per­sonal friend­ship, forged through mul­ti­ple meet­ings and tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions, as well as on the greens of one of Trump’s Florida golf clubs and over in­ti­mate din­ners at Trump’s Florida es­tate.

At the club, the lead­ers signed white caps in­scribed with the phrase, “Don­ald and Shinzo: Make Al­liance Even Greater,” a trib­ute to the U.S.-Ja­pan friend­ship and a play on Trump’s cam­paign slo­gan. On the menu: a ham­burger made from U.S. beef.

The trip, which marks the long­est Far East itin­er­ary for a pres­i­dent in a gen­er­a­tion, comes at a pre­car­i­ous mo­ment for Trump. Days ago, his for­mer cam­paign chair­man was in­dicted and an­other ad­viser pleaded guilty as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble collusion be­tween Trump’s 2016 cam­paign and Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

The jour­ney will also test Trump’s stamina. But the 71-year-old pres­i­dent as­sured re­porters that he was up for the task. “It’s gru­el­ing, they tell me, but for­tu­nately that’s his­tor­i­cally not been a prob­lem for me. One thing you peo­ple will say, that’s not been a prob­lem,” he said.

The visit will be closely watched by Asian al­lies wor­ried that Trump’s in­ward-look­ing “Amer­ica First” agenda could cede power in the re­gion to China. They also are rat­tled by his bel­li­cose rhetoric to­ward North Korea. The North’s grow­ing mis­sile arse­nal threat­ens sev­eral of the cap­i­tals Trump will visit.

The trip will also put Trump in face-to-face meet­ings with au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers for whom he has ex­pressed ad­mi­ra­tion. They in­clude China’s Xi Jin­ping, whom Trump has likened to “a king,” and the Philip­pines’ Ro­drigo Duterte, who has sanc­tioned the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings of drug deal­ers.

Trump is also ex­pected to have a sec­ond pri­vate au­di­ence with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on the side­lines of a sum­mit in Viet­nam. Trump told re­porters he “will want Putin’s help” in deal­ing with North Korea. They pre­vi­ously met dur­ing a sum­mit in Europe this sum­mer.

The White House has sig­naled that Trump will push Amer­i­can eco­nomic in­ter­ests in the re­gion, but the North Korea is­sue is ex­pected to dom­i­nate the trip. One of Trump’s two ma­jor speeches will come be­fore the Na­tional Assem­bly in Seoul. But fiery threats against the North could res­onate dif­fer­ently than they do from the dis­tance of Wash­ing­ton.

Trump will forgo a trip to the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone, the stark bor­der be­tween North and South Korea. All U.S. pres­i­dents ex­cept one since Ron­ald Rea­gan have vis­ited the DMZ in a sign of sol­i­dar­ity with Seoul. The White House con­tends that Trump’s com­mit­ment to South Korea is al­ready crys­tal clear, as ev­i­denced by his war of words with Kim and his threats to de­liver “fire and fury” to North Korea if it does not stop threat­en­ing Amer­i­can al­lies.

The es­ca­la­tion of rhetoric, a de­par­ture from the con­duct of past pres­i­dents, has un­der­mined con­fi­dence in the U.S. as a sta­bi­liz­ing pres­ence in Asia.

“There’s a dan­ger if there is a lot of mus­cle flex­ing,” said Mike Chi­noy, a se­nior fel­low at the U.S.-China In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. “Trump has been go­ing right up to the edge and I wouldn’t rule out some sort of force­ful North Korean re­ac­tion to Trump’s pres­ence in the re­gion,” he said.

The White House said Trump would be un­de­terred.

“The pres­i­dent will use what­ever lan­guage he wants to use, ob­vi­ously,” White House na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H.R. McMaster told re­porters be­fore Trump de­parted Wash­ing­ton. “I don’t think the pres­i­dent re­ally mod­u­lates his lan­guage, have you no­ticed?”

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