Trump chal­lenges Ja­pan on trade

North Korea fires short-range mis­siles

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page -

TOKYO — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump opened a state visit to Ja­pan on Satur­day by chal­leng­ing the Amer­i­can ally over its trade im­bal­ance with the United States.

Mr. Trump also pro­moted the U.S. un­der his lead­er­ship, say­ing “there’s never been a bet­ter time” to in­vest or do busi­ness in Amer­ica, and he urged cor­po­rate lead­ers to come.

The pres­i­dent’s first event af­ter ar­riv­ing in Tokyo was a re­cep­tion with sev­eral dozen Ja­panese and Amer­i­can busi­ness lead­ers at the U.S. am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence. He said the two coun­tries “are hard at work” ne­go­ti­at­ing a trade agree­ment .

“I would say that Ja­pan has had a sub­stan­tial edge for many, many years, but that’s OK,” Mr. Trump said, jok­ing that “maybe that’s why you like me so much.”

His com­ments un­der­scored the com­pet­ing dy­nam­ics of a state visit de­signed to show off the long U.S.Ja­pan al­liance and the close friend­ship be­tween Mr. Trump and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe even as trade ten­sions run high.

Mr. Trump landed from his overnight flight shortly af­ter a mag­ni­tude 5.1 earth­quake struck just south of Tokyo and rat­tled the city.

Mr. Abe has planned a largely cer­e­mo­nial, four-day visit to suit Mr. Trump’s whims and ego. It’s part of Mr. Abe’s charm strat­egy that some an­a­lysts say has spared Ja­pan from the full weight of Mr. Trump’s trade wrath.

Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump planned to play golf Sun­day be­fore Mr. Abe gives Mr. Trump the chance to present his “Pres­i­dent’s Cup” tro­phy to the win­ner of a sumo wrestling cham­pi­onship match. The White House said the tro­phy is nearly 5 feet tall and weighs be­tween 60 pounds and 70 pounds.

On Mon­day, Mr. Trump will be­come the first head of state to meet Em­peror Naruhito since he as­cended to the throne this month.

“With all the coun­tries of the world, I’m the guest of honor at the big­gest event that they’ve had in over 200 years,” Mr. Trump said be­fore the trip.

The pres­i­dent is threat­en­ing Ja­pan with po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing U.S. tar­iffs on for­eign au­tos and auto parts. He has sug­gested he will go ahead with the trade penal­ties if U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer fails to win con­ces­sions from Ja­pan and the Eu­ro­pean Union.

Mr. Trump had pre­dicted that a U.S.-Ja­pan trade deal could be fi­nal­ized dur­ing his trip. But that’s un­likely given that the two sides are still fig­ur­ing out the pa­ram­e­ters of what they will ne­go­ti­ate.

He none­the­less por­trayed the ne­go­ti­a­tions in a pos­i­tive light in his re­marks to the busi­ness group.

“With this deal we hope to ad­dress the trade im­bal­ance, re­move bar­ri­ers to United States ex­ports and en­sure fair­ness and rec­i­proc­ity in our re­la­tion­ship. And we’re get­ting closer,” Mr. Trump said. He also urged the busi­ness lead­ers to in­vest more in the U.S.

He praised the “very spe­cial” U.S.-Ja­pan al­liance that he said “has never been stronger, it’s never been more pow­er­ful, never been closer.”

Mr. Abe made a strate­gic de­ci­sion be­fore Mr. Trump was elected in Novem­ber 2016 to fo­cus on Ja­pan’s re­la­tion­ship with the U.S.

Mr. Abe rushed to New York two weeks af­ter that elec­tion to meet the pres­i­dent-elect at Trump Tower. Last month, Mr. Abe and his wife, Akie, cel­e­brated first lady Me­la­nia Trump’s birth­day dur­ing a White House din­ner.

Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump are likely to meet for the third time in three months when Mr. Trump re­turns to Ja­pan in late June for a sum­mit of lead­ing rich and de­vel­op­ing na­tions.

Be­hind the smiles, how­ever, there is deep un­easi­ness over Mr. Trump’s threat to im­pose tar­iffs on Ja­panese au­tos and auto parts on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds. Such a move would be more dev­as­tat­ing to the Ja­panese econ­omy than ear­lier tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum.

Mr. Trump re­cently agreed to a six-month de­lay, enough time to carry Mr. Abe past July’s Ja­panese par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

Also at is­sue is the lin­ger­ing threat of North Korea, which has re­sumed mis­sile test­ing and re­cently fired a se­ries of short-range mis­siles that U.S. of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Mr. Trump, have tried to play down de­spite an agree­ment by the North to hold off on fur­ther test­ing.

Mr. Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, told re­porters Satur­day be­fore Mr. Trump ar­rived that the short-range mis­sile tests were a vi­o­la­tion of U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions and that sanc­tions must stay in place.

Mr. Bolton said Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe would “talk about mak­ing sure the in­tegrity of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions are main­tained.”

It marked a change in tone from the view ex­pressed by U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo in a re­cent tele­vi­sion in­ter­view. He said “the mora­to­rium was fo­cused, very fo­cused, on in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal mis­sile sys­tems, the ones that threaten the United States.” That raised alarm bells in Ja­pan, where short-range mis­siles pose a se­ri­ous threat.

Mr. Bolton com­mented a day af­ter North Korea’s of­fi­cial me­dia said nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions with Wash­ing­ton would not re­sume un­less the U.S. aban­doned what the North de­scribed as de­mands for uni­lat­eral dis­ar­ma­ment.

Koji Sasahara/Getty Im­ages

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump ar­rive at Haneda In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Satur­day in Tokyo for a four-day state visit. On Mon­day, Mr. Trump will meet Ja­pan’s new em­peror, Naruhito.

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