Trump: Japan can shoot down missiles
US President says two countries are united over options on North Korea
TOKYO: US President Donald Trump said yesterday that America stood with close ally Japan against the North Korean "menace" and that Washington would work with Tokyo to sort out problems on trade between the world's biggest and third largest economies.
Speaking after a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Mr Trump repeated his mantra that the "era of strategic patience" with North Korea was over, and that the two countries were working to counter the "dangerous aggressions" of the North Korean regime, which has fired two rockets over Japan.
He said that Japan would shoot North Korean missiles "out of the sky" after completing purchases of US military equipment.
Mr Abe, for his part, said Tokyo would do so "if necessary".
Mr Trump also pressed Japan to lower its trade deficit with the US and buy more US military hardware, but Mr Abe dodged questions about the trade deficit.
The US president is on the second day of a 12-day Asian trip that is focusing on trade and North Korea's nuclear missile programmes.
"Most importantly, we're working to counter the dangerous aggressions of the regime in North Korea," Mr Trump said, calling Pyongyang's nuclear tests and recent launches of ballistic missiles over Japan "a threat to the civilised world and to international peace and stability".
"Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong. But look what's happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we are right now," he added.
North Korea's recent actions have raised the stakes in the most critical international challenge of Mr Trump's presidency.
The US leader has rattled some allies with his vow to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatens the US and with his dismissal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a"rocket man" on a suicide mission.
Mr Abe, with whom Mr Trump has bonded through multiple summits and phone calls, repeated at the same news conference that Japan backed Mr Trump's stance that "all options" are on the table, saying it was time to exert maximum pressure on North Korea and the two countries were "100 per cent" together on the issue.
Japan's policy is that it would shoot down a missile only if it were falling on Japanese territory or if it were judged to pose an "existential threat" to Japan because it was aimed at a US target.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying, in response to Mr Abe's comments, said that the North Korean "situation" was "already extremely complex, sensitive and weak".
"We hope that under the present circumstances, all sides' words and actions can help reduce tensions and reestablish mutual trust and getting the North Korean nuclear issue back on the correct track of dialogue and negotiations," she said.
Mr Trump said he was committed to achieving "free, fair, and reciprocal" trade and wants to work with Japan on this issue.
"America is also committed to improving our economic relationship with Japan," Mr Trump said. "As president, I'm committed to achieving fair, free and reciprocal trading relationship. We seek equal and reliable access for American exports to Japan's markets in order to eliminate our chronic trade imbalances and deficits with Japan."- REUTERS