President Donald Trump speaks as Trump and first lady Melania Trump, right, meet with the families of Japanese abducted by North Korea at the Akasaka Palace, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, in Tokyo. Trump is on a five country trip through Asia traveling to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. (AP Photo)
TOKYO, November 6 (AP): Declaring that North Korea was “a threat to the civilized world,” President Donald Trump vowed Monday in Japan that the United States “will not stand” for Pyongyang menacing America or its allies.
Trump, in one of the Asian capitals threatened by North Korea’s missiles, did not rule out military action and exhorted dictator Kim Jong Un to cease weapons testing like the missiles he has fired over Japanese territory in recent weeks. The president also denounced efforts by the Obama administration to manage Pyongyang, declaring again that “the era of strategic patience was over.”
“Some people say my rhetoric is very strong but look what has happened with very weak rhetoric in last 25 years,” said Trump, who stood with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a news conference and stated that North Korea imperiled “international peace and stability.”
Abe, who has taken a more hawkish view on North Korea than some of his predecessors, agreed with Trump’s assessment that “all options on the table” when dealing with Kim Jong Un and announced new sanctions against several dozen North Korea individuals. The two men also put a face on the threat posed by the North, earlier standing with anguished families of Japanese citizens snatched by Pyongyang’s agents, as Trump called their abductions “a tremendous disgrace.”
Trump pledged to work to return the missing to their families, intensifying the pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by elevating these heart-wrenching tales of loss to the international stage in hopes of pushing Pyongyang to end its provocative behavior toward American allies in the region.
North Korea has acknowledged apprehending 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, but claims they all died or have been released. But in Japan, where grieving relatives of the abducted have become a symbol of heartbreak on the scale of American POW families, the government insists many more were taken — and that some may still be alive.
Trump has delivered harsh denunciations of Kim, belittling him as “Little Rocket Man” but suggested that it would be “a tremendous signal” if North Korea returned the captives. Trump and Abe repeatedly touted their bond over two days that included a round of golf, a hamburger with American beef and a couples’ dinner at a teppanyaki restaurant.
“The relationship is really extraordinary. We like each other and our countries like each other,” Trump said. “And I don’t think we’ve ever been closer to Japan than we are right now.” But disagreements on trade could strain the friendship.
Trump complained Monday that Japan had been “winning” for decades and rebuked the current relationship, saying the trade deals were “not fair and not open.” He told a group of American and Japanese business leaders: the United States was open for business, but he wanted to reshape the nations’ trade relationship, though he did not say how he would cut the trade deficit with Japan, which totaled nearly $70 billion last year.
He also downplayed the potentially contentious nature of the negotiations, though the Japanese government has not shown much appetite for striking a new bilateral trade agreement. Tokyo had pushed to preserve the Trans- Pacific Partnership, which Trump has abandoned.