Pres­i­dent tees up is­sues in trip to Asia

North Korea, trade, ab­duc­tions and golf on agenda in visit to Ja­pan

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Jonathan Lemire

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump kicked off his most gru­el­ing and con­se­quen­tial trip abroad Sun­day by prais­ing Ja­pan as a “trea­sured part­ner and cru­cial ally” even as he stood ready to ex­hort Asian al­lies and ri­vals on the need to counter the dan­gers posed by North Korea’s nu­clear threat.

Trump ad­dressed ser­vice mem­bers at Yokota Air Force base out­side Tokyo im­me­di­ately af­ter ar­riv­ing in Ja­pan on Sun­day morn­ing. He thanked Ja­pan “for wel­com­ing us and for decades of won­der­ful friend­ship be­tween our two na­tions.”

Trump and first lady Melania Trump were wel­comed by an en­thu­si­as­tic crowd. The pres­i­dent was given a bomber jacket that he quickly put on.

The 12-day, five-coun­try trip — the long­est Asia visit for any U.S. pres­i­dent since George H.W. Bush went there in 1992 — comes at a pre­car­i­ous mo­ment for Trump.

Just days ago, his former cam­paign chair­man was in­dicted and an­other ad­viser pleaded guilty as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween his 2016 cam­paign and Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

Be­fore he left Hawaii on Satur­day, Trump had his mo­tor­cade stop at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel Waikiki be­cause, as White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders put it, the pres­i­dent “wanted to say hello and thank you to the em­ploy­ees for all their hard work.”

Trump did not stay at the ho­tel dur­ing his two-day, one-night visit.

The trip presents a cru­cial in­ter­na­tional test for a pres­i­dent look­ing to re­as­sure Asian al­lies wor­ried that his in­ward-look­ing “Amer­ica First” agenda could cede power in the re­gion to China. They also are rat­tled by his bel­li­cose rhetoric about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“The trip comes, I would ar­gue, at a very in­op­por­tune time for the pres­i­dent. He is un­der grow­ing do­mes­tic vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that we all know about, hour to hour,” said Jonathan Pol­lack, a se­nior fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. “The con­junc­tion of those is­sues leads to the pal­pa­ble sense of un­ease about the po­ten­tial cri­sis in Korea.”

Trump and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe largely see eye-to-eye on how to deal with the vex­ing prob­lem of North Korea’s weapons devel­op­ment, even if a so­lu­tion re­mains elu­sive. Amer­ica’s trade deficit with Ja­pan could be a point of con­tention, though Trump has aimed his re­cent rhetoric on trade at China, not Ja­pan.

The two lead­ers will meet on the golf course Sun­day be­fore for­mal talks Mon­day. A look at what’s on tap: North Korea: North Korea’s rapid ad­vances in mis­sile devel­op­ment are mak­ing the po­ten­tial threat much more real for Ja­pan and the United States. As it seeks to send mis­siles far­ther, North Korea has test-launched two over north­ern Ja­pan and into the Pa­cific Ocean this year. While they were too high to be seen or heard on the ground, the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment ad­vised peo­ple to seek shel­ter.

Abe has pushed for stronger U.N. sanc­tions on North Korea, and joined Trump in say­ing China should do more to pres­sure its neigh­bor. Trump and Abe are likely to agree that what is needed is more pres­sure. Trade: One of Trump’s first moves as pres­i­dent was to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, a trade agree­ment that had been signed with 11 other coun­tries af­ter years of tough ne­go­ti­a­tions —a blow to Ja­pan and the other TPP mem­bers.

In line with Trump’s pref­er­ence for coun­try-to-coun­try trade deals, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Taro Aso have been lead­ing an “eco­nomic dia­logue” aimed at forg­ing closer ties. Ja­pan’s trade sur­plus with the U.S. is much smaller than China’s, and Ja­panese au­tomak­ers, es­pe­cially, have sought to mute crit­i­cism by set­ting up shop in the U.S. and hir­ing Amer­i­can work­ers. But Trump has com­plained about a weak­en­ing of the yen over the past five years that has aided Ja­panese ex­porters and other cor­po­ra­tions with sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness over­seas. Af­ter Ja­pan: Trump is sched­uled to leave Tues­day to Seoul, South Korea. But on Satur­day, hun­dreds of South Kore­ans took to the streets of the cap­i­tal in protest.

But not ev­ery­one was against Trump’s visit: Just a few blocks away from the main anti-Trump protest by the U.S. Em­bassy, a smaller pro-Trump demon­stra­tion was tak­ing place.

The two events re­flected the con­flict­ing con­cerns in South Korea at a time when many feel the risk of con­flict with North Korea is run­ning high. Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­uted.

EU­GENE HOSHIKO/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, waves to U.S. troops near Tokyo.

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