Trump Tells Japan It Can Protect Itself by Buying U.S. Arms

Mr. Trump’s remarks got here on a day of excessive pomp and plain-spoken politics, which showcased each the president’s fitful adjustment to the rituals of statecraft and his dedication to conserving pounding on the hot-button points that vaulted him into the White House.

Before noon, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko welcomed Mr. Trump and his spouse, Melania, on the Imperial residence. Afterward, the president was formally acquired by Mr. Abe on a pink carpet at Akasaka Palace, a neo-Baroque constructing that resembles Buckingham Palace. The two males inspected an honor guard, glittering in gold braid, their rifles fastened with bayonets.

Earlier, nonetheless, Mr. Trump used a breakfast badembly of Japanese and American enterprise executives to ship a scathing critique of the commerce relationship between the 2 international locations. Japan, he mentioned, purchased nearly no vehicles from the United States whereas exporting tens of millions of autos into the American market.


The president and the primary woman, Melania Trump, met Monday at Akasaka with the relations of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea. Mr. Trump mentioned their return would ship a “tremendous signal.”

Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over,” Mr. Trump mentioned, disregarding the truth that Japanese carmakers have constructed enormous meeting crops within the United States. “That’s not too much to ask,” he continued. “Is that rude to ask?”

In considerably gentler phrases, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Abe that the United States was in search of a brand new form of commerce relationship. Though he praised the Japanese economic system, the president added, “I don’t know if it’s as good as ours. I think not, O.K.?” he mentioned, capturing Mr. Abe a gimlet-eyed look. “And we’re going to try to keep it that way, and you’ll be second.”

Still, Mr. Trump additionally confirmed a eager appreciation of the home politics of his host. At Mr. Abe’s behest, the president met with the households of Japanese folks kidnapped by North Korea, a problem that has deep political resonance amongst Japanese.

At the information convention, Mr. Trump likened the plight of those households to that of the household of Otto Warmbier, the American school pupil who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months and died a number of days after being returned to the United States in a coma-like state.

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Whether by design or in any other case, Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly rejected the concept of direct negotiations with North Korea over curbing its nuclear program, appeared to counsel his stance may change if Mr. Kim returned the Japanese folks his regime had kidnapped. North Korea has mentioned that many of the abductees are lifeless.

“Now the spotlight is on, and perhaps we could have some very good luck, and perhaps the regime itself would send them back,” Mr. Trump mentioned. “I think it would be a tremendous signal if Kim Jong-un would send them back. If he would send them back that would be the start of something — I think it would be just something very special if they would do that.”

Mr. Abe, for his half, performed to his visitor’s urge for food for ceremony — and spontaneity. As the 2 leaders strolled to lunch in a personal eating room overlooking a koi pond, they had been every given a wood field of fish meals and a spoon. After a number of moments of delicately spooning the flakes into the pond, a stressed Mr. Abe tossed within the stays of his field, main Mr. Trump to dump his, too.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe then took seats at an extended, low desk on a flooring lined with straw tatami mats. At the information convention, the prime minister referred repeatedly to Mr. Trump by his first identify, Donald, recounting their conferences at Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida property, and a dinner right here on Sunday so fulfilling that he mentioned they misplaced observe of time.


Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe feeding the koi at Akasaka. The president saluted the prime minister as amongst his closest mates within the membership of world leaders.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

“How many hours of dialogue have we had?” Mr. Abe requested. “I believe there have been never been such close bonds.”

Mr. Abe reacted mildly to stories within the Japanese media — which Mr. Trump implicitly confirmed in the course of the information convention — that Mr. Trump was dismayed by Japan’s determination to not shoot down missiles North Korea fired over Japanese territory in August and September. The missiles flew over the island of Hokkaido earlier than touchdown harmlessly within the sea.

In conversations with different Asian leaders, a senior American official mentioned, Mr. Trump requested why a rustic of “samurai warriors” didn’t shoot down the missiles, which the North Koreans launched in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Mr. Trump didn’t immediately handle the difficulty on Monday, although he famous that over the weekend an American antimissile system had shot down a missile fired on Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Japan had tracked the missiles North Korea fired over Japan, Mr. Abe mentioned, and would have shot them down if that they had posed a risk to Japanese residents.

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Japan’s American-made missile protection techniques would have enabled it to shoot down the missile that flew over Hokkaido on Aug. 29, although not a subsequent one examined on Sept. 15. It can also be potential Japan may have missed if it tried to shoot the missiles down, which might have been an acute embarrbadment.

Legally, the query is much more sophisticated. Japan can solely intercept a missile if its residents are in peril or if there’s an badault on an allied nation that would jeopardize Japan’s safety, mentioned Noboru Yamaguchi, professor of worldwide relations on the International University of Japan in Niigata.

Since North Korea has up to now solely carried out missile checks — versus launching missiles armed with stay warheads — Japan doesn’t have the authorized proper to intercept them. Moreover, mentioned Mr. Yamaguchi who’s a retired lieutenant normal in Japan’s navy, often called the Self-Defense Forces, the prime minister would wish approval from Japan’s Parliament for any such motion.

Mr. Yamaguchi dismissed Mr. Trump’s reference to samurai warriors as a caricature. “Samurais are quiet up until the last moment,” he mentioned. “And at the last moment, samurais do things decisively.”

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