Opinion: Trump arrives in Asia with focus on trade, N. Korea

TOKYO — President Donald Trump on Sunday said he expects to meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia next week to discuss confronting the threat from North Korea, part of a 12-day, five-country tour through Asia that started with his arrival in Japan and is very likely to be dominated by discussions about trade and Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

In a speech to U.S. troops after Air Force One landed at Yokota Air Base here on a crisp, sunny morning, Trump never mentioned North Korea, but he said the U.S. military stood ready to defend the country and “fight to overpower” its adversaries.

Trump’s trip to the continent will be the longest by a U.S. president in more than 25 years. Ahead of what his advisers called a grueling schedule of meetings and summits, the president will get a chance to relax by playing golf on Sunday afternoon with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The outing is reciprocation for a round that Trump hosted in Palm Beach, Florida, in February for Abe and Ernie Els, once the world’s top golfer. For Sunday’s round, Abe has invited Hideki Matsuyama, a Japanese golfer ranked fourth in the world.

“Prime Minister Abe is called a trainer of wild animals,” said Fumio Hirai, a commentator on a morning news show on Fuji TV. “And the world is watching how he does with President Trump.”

The already extensive trip grew longer still Friday when Trump abruptly announced to reporters that he would attend the East Asia Summit in Manila on Nov. 14, adding a day to his travels.

Before leaving for Asia, Trump stopped in Honolulu, where he visited the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command and made a sunset visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, which honors the ship on which 1,177 Americans were killed during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

During the briefing, military officials showed Trump a huge map of the region, with laminated stickers marking the locations of U.S. forces, according to a U.S. official. Their goal was to impress upon the president — who has suggested that allies must share more of the costs of their own defense — that the U.S. military presence in places like South Korea, Japan and the Philippines was not a matter of charity. “We’re not there for them; we’re there for us,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., head of the Pacific Command, told Trump, the official said.

That theme is likely to be highlighted again Tuesday when Trump is in South Korea.

White House officials have framed the trip as a chance for Trump to showcase his warm relationships with world leaders including Abe and President Xi Jinping of China, as well as to demand trade deals more favorable to the United States after his decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But it will also highlight the uncertainty in the region and around the world about what to expect from the Trump administration, and the degree to which major powers are charting their own course in the absence of clear signals from the U.S.

Trump’s ability to stay on message during a lengthy and physically demanding trip will most likely be tested, with many opportunities for gaffes or intemperate language. Asked last week whether the president would seek to temper his rhetoric while he traveled through the region, his national security adviser was frank.

“The president will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously,” Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster told reporters. “I don’t think the president really modulates his language — have you noticed him do that?”

Writes for The New York Times.

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