By Jennifer Epstein and Shannon Pettypiece
On a trip where no major agreement was reached, Trump’s statements were persistently at odds with the Japanese. He said he’s aiming to reach a trade deal by August, while Japanese officials said there was no such talk. After he brushed off North Korean missile tests earlier this month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called them a violation of United Nations resolutions.
Before flying out on Tuesday, Trump stood with Abe on one of the largest naval ships Japan has built since World War II, which is being refitted to house some pricey, U.S-made F-35 stealth fighters. Japan’s government has said it plans to buy as many as 147 of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35s -- including some that cost 15.3 billion yen ($140 million) each.
“The U.S.-Japan alliance has never been stronger,” Trump told sailors and Marines aboard the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship at the naval base in Yokosuka, shared by the U.S. and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. “This remarkable port is the only one in the world where an American naval fleet and an allied naval fleet headquartered side by side, a testament to the ironclad partnership between U.S. and Japanese forces.”
Japan has sought to charm Trump to avoid costly tariffs and retain positive relations with an ally that ensures its security against neighboring China and North Korea. At the same time, Trump is looking to reach a deal with Japan quickly as he escalates his trade war with China.
‘Firm’ Alliance“He mentioned about the trade surplus we have with the United States in the press conference but I don’t think he went so far as to hit us,” Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s former ambassador to the U.S., said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We need the United States in view of our situation with North Korea and China. The alliance is as firm as at any time.”
Trump and Abe also toured the Japanese naval vessel Kaga, where the president praised the F-35 purchase and extolled Abe “for his commitment to improving Japan’s defense capabilities, which also advances the security of the United States of America.” Japan is the largest foreign buyer of the F-35 stealth fighters, considered the most expensive U.S. weapons system.
Kaga is one of the two largest vessels in Japan’s navy. Both were originally intended as a helicopter carriers and will be adapted to accommodate fixed-wing fighter planes when necessary, under a plan approved by Abe’s cabinet last year.
The fighters used are likely to be the F-35B, the short take-off, vertical landing version of the fighter. Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya has said the planes won’t be permanently stationed aboard the ship.
Abe said it’s the first time that U.S. and Japanese leaders have come together to address troops from both nations. “The Japan-U.S. alliance has become stronger than ever,” Abe said in the visit to Yokosuka, which is the largest overseas U.S. naval installation and home to the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.
‘A Great Honor’Abe has been busy entertaining the U.S. leader with golf, meals and sumo wrestling. Trump on Monday also became the first head of state to meet Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1. He and his wife Melania were the guests of honor at a state dinner on Monday.
I will be making two stops this morning in Japan to visit with our Great Military, then a quick stop in Alaska and back to D.C. Meetings with Prime Minister Abe went very well, and getting to spend time with the new Emperor and Empress of Japan was a great honor!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2019
Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., criticized Trump’s declaration that imported cars and components threaten national security, saying it sent a message that the company’s decades of investments in the U.S. weren’t welcome.
— With assistance by Isabel Reynolds