Speaking at a joint press conference on Monday, US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that Pyongyang is high on their meeting’s agenda. The American leader yet again blasted Pyongyang for the continued development of its “unlawful weapons programs, including its illegal nuclear tests and outrageous launches of ballistic missiles” over Japanese territory.
“We will not stand for that,” he said, reiterating once again that “the era of strategic patience is over.” Abe echoed the message, but stopped short of threatening North Korea, saying that it is “time for dialogue,” while also promising more sanctions on the reclusive state.
Trump on his part also did not hesitate to advertise US weapons to Japan.“He [Abe] will shoot them [North Korean missiles] out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States,” the president said. “The prime minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should. And we make the best military equipment by far.”
Japan is already buying defense equipment from Washington, but there are further plans to modernize the Japanese military in light of heightened tensions with North Korea. “The situation in Asia-Pacific is getting very tough, and we have to qualitatively and quantitatively enhance our capabilities,” Abe said.
He mentioned the purchase of F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets, SM-3 Block III anti-aircraft missiles, and Aegis-capable warships. “The quality and quantity must be enhanced by buying more from the United States, that’s what I’m thinking of,” Prime Minister Abe stated.
Donald Trump kicked off his first Asian tour by visiting Japan, a close American ally and long-time trading partner, last week. Shortly after arriving, he issued a thinly veiled warning to North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un, saying that “no dictator” should underestimate the US.
North Korea marked Trump’s visit to Japan by firing off a verbal attack on the “spiritually unstable” US president. “Nobody can predict when Trump does a reckless act… The only and one way for checking his rash act is to tame him with absolute physical power,” according to a commentary on Sunday in The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party. The state newspaper also warned “Trump’s coteries” not to make “reckless remarks” again.
Many Japanese people also do not seem to be keen on the potential closer military cooperation between Tokyo and Washington. On Sunday, thousands of people protested in the Japanese capital ahead of Trump’s visit.
The US military presence has long been a source of controversy in Japan. The relocation of a US air base in the Okinawa prefecture is a particularly pressing problem. Locals have engaged in a months-long campaign to protest the move, which received the backing of the Okinawa governor, Takeshi Onaga.
In July, the Okinawa prefecture filed yet another lawsuit against the government in Tokyo demanding a halt to the relocation process. Apart from taking legal action, those protesting the move also used more radical ways to express their discontent, including sit-ins outside the neighboring US Marines base and using rocks intended for construction of the base to block construction machinery.