Posts Tagged ‘Shinzo Abe’

Vietnam wants peaceful end to sea disputes — Trump offers to mediate in South China Sea feud — Long Trump News Q and A in Vietnam

November 12, 2017

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Trump offers to mediate in South China Sea feud

 November 12 at 12:16 AM
HANOI, Vietnam — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia (all times local):12:05 p.m.

Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang says his country wants to settle disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations.

Quang made the comments Sunday during a joint appearance with President Donald Trump, who is on a brief state visit to Vietnam. Trump had offered during an earlier meeting Sunday with Quang to serve as a mediator on the South China Sea territorial disputes.

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Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang and U.S. President Donald Trump address a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam November 12, 2017. REUTERS- Jonathan Ernst

Vietnam and China along with four others claim all or parts of the strategic waters.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) is scheduled to arrive in Vietnam for a state visit later Sunday. Disputes over the South China Sea are expected to be high on the agenda during Xi’s talks with Vietnamese leaders.


11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has highlighted trade issues in meetings with Vietnam’s prime minister and the secretary general of its Communist Party.

Trump told Communist Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong (nuh-WEE’-ihn FOO Trawng) that trade has become a very important element in the relationship between the two countries.

The president delivered a similar message later to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (nuh-WEE’-ihn SOO’-an FOOK). Trump urged Vietnam to buy missiles and other weapons systems from the United States, seeming to suggest that it would help erase a trade imbalance. Trump says the U.S. “makes the greatest missiles in the world.”

Outside of trade, Trump says he looks forward to the onetime adversaries U.S. and Vietnam having a fantastic relationship for years to come.


11:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump says stronger U.S. relations with Russia would benefit the globe and suggests that Russian sanctions may be lifted.

Trump says in Vietnam that Russia has been “very heavily sanctioned” and “it’s now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken.” The president is pointing to the need to work with Russia to solve problems in Syria, North Korea and Ukraine.

Trump says he believes “having Russia in a friendly posture as opposed to always fighting them is an asset.”

Congress slapped sanctions on Russia last summer for interfering in the 2016 election. Those sanctions were in addition to existing U.S. penalties on Russia for its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine and 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.


11:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump says it would be a “good thing” for North Korea and the world if he and Kim Jong Un become friends.

But he immediately cast doubt on whether that could happen. Trump has spoken forcefully against North Korea and its nuclear threat while traveling in Asia.

Trump tweeted about the North Korean leader on Saturday, saying he had tried “so hard” to be Kim’s friend and that “maybe someday that will happen!”

Asked at a news conference in Hanoi about the tweet, Trump said a friendship with Kim “might be a strange thing to happen but it’s certainly a possibility.”

Trump says he doesn’t know that friendship will develop, but says it would be “very, very nice if it did.”


10:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he believes in the U.S. intelligence agencies despite his past skepticism about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The president says during a joint news conference with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang that the U.S. intelligence agencies are “currently led by fine people.” He adds, “I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”

Trump’s comments come a day after he bashed the former heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies as “political hacks” and accused Democrats of trying to sabotage relations between the two countries.


10:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump is reiterating that “all responsible nations” must act to help stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

Trump says at a joint news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, that “we want progress, not provocation” and “we want stability, not chaos.” Trump says the U.S. wants peace and not war.

North Korea has been a focal point of Trump’s trip to Asia. He is speaking at a news conference with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang.


9:35 a.m.

President Donald Trump is offering to serve as a mediator on the South China Sea territorial disputes as he meets with the president of Vietnam.

Trump is telling President Tran Dai Quang he knows Vietnam has had a dispute with China over the strategic waterways.

Trump says he’s a “very good mediator and a very good arbitrator” and willing to help.

Trump was speaking to Quang at the start of their meetings in Hanoi. Trump says North Korea “continues to be a problem” and he’s hopeful that Chinese President Xi Jinping will “be a tremendous help.” Trump says he also hopes that Russia will “be a tremendous help.”

Trump says they’ll also talk about trade. He says the U.S. will “be treated fairly,” adding, “past administrations didn’t understand trade.”


9:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump is promising a “tremendous amount of trade” with Vietnam as he arrives at the presidential palace for his meeting with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang.

Trump and Quang spoke briefly to reporters after the U.S. president arrived at the presidential palace in Hanoi on a rainy morning. Trump says they’ll be conducting “billions and billions” of dollars in trade.

The two leaders were greeted by young children waving U.S. and Vietnamese flags and then paused as a band played the two countries’ national anthems.

Trump is in Hanoi for a brief state visit and will hold a joint news conference with Quang. He’ll depart for the Philippines later Sunday for a pair of summits that will close out his trip to Asia.


8:10 a.m. Sunday

President Donald Trump is bashing the “haters and fools” he says are questioning his efforts to improve relations with Russia.

Trump, in the final days of a lengthy Asia trip, shared his thoughts in a series of tweets Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam.

He accused critics of “playing politics” and hurting the country.

The day before, Trump had told reporters that Russia President Vladimir Putin has again denied meddling in the 2016 election. Trump did not make clear whether he believed Putin but did make clear that he did not want to revisit the issue.

Trump has suggested that the ongoing probe into contacts between his campaign and the Russians was hurting the U.S. relationship with Moscow and could hinder efforts to solve crises like Syria and North Korea.


8:05 a.m. Sunday

President Donald Trump is exchanging schools yard taunts with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Trump says in a tweet from Vietnam: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?””

Trump goes on to say sarcastically, “Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend” and says that, “maybe someday that will happen!”

Trump has been working to rally global pressure against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on a trip to Asia. That includes a stern speech delivered in South Korea.

Kim’s government responded to that speech by calling Trump an “old lunatic.”


12:50 a.m. Sunday

President Donald Trump is back on the defensive over Russian election meddling and is accusing Democrats of trying to sabotage U.S.-Russia relations.

Speaking to reporters Saturday aboard Air Force One, Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin vehemently insisted once again that Moscow had not interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The Republican president declined to say whether he believed Putin but made clear he wasn’t interested in dwelling on the issue.

Trump is in Hanoi, Vietnam, for a brief state visit. He’ll depart for the Philippines later Sunday for a pair of summits that will close out his trip.

Trump and Putin did not have a formal meeting while they were in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, but the two spoke informally several times on the event’s sidelines.


11:15 p.m. Saturday

The Kremlin’s spokesman says Vladimir Putin flatly denied any Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election during a short meeting with President Donald Trump.

The Russian president and Trump met Saturday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific conference in Vietnam.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling reporters: “Trump really raised the topic of so-called interference in U.S. elections.

Peskov says, “Putin categorically rejected even the hypothetical possibility that Russia could have in some way interfered in the U.S. electoral process.”


11:05 p.m.

The White House Correspondents Association is voicing concerns about press access during President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia.

Reporters and photographers traveling with the president were barred from covering any of the events at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the coastal city of Danang on Saturday.

Reporters have also voiced concerns that Trump declined to take questions in China, though he has held press conferences in Japan and South Korea and spoke to reporters at length aboard Air Force One Saturday.

Margaret Talev, the correspondents association president, says in a statement the group is “concerned that access on this trip has eroded more significantly” and that “notice about changes or new coverage restrictions has often come with too short of notice to be able to react effectively.”


8:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising Vietnam in brief remarks before a state dinner, calling the nation “one of the great miracles of the world.”

He says the United States and Vietnam have “come a long way,” in an apparent reference to the Vietnam War.

Trump added that “there is nothing more impressive” than the success of the country. He spoke during a state dinner featuring local flavors.

On the menu: steamed rice powder rolls “with fluffy pemmican”; shrimp rolled in fried egg; a seafood soup made with fish maw, shrimp, scallop and shark fin; and Dong Tao chicken rolled with lotus and mushrooms.

Besides dinner, Trump is scheduled for talks with Vietnamese leaders before heading to the Philippines, his last stop on the trip.


7:25 p.m.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday issued its first official statement on President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia, slamming Trump for trying to denuclearize the North.

The ministry said that Trump’s trip “is a warmonger’s trip for confrontation with our country, trying to remove our self-defensive nuclear deterrent.”

It accused Trump of trying to demonize North Korea, keep it apart from the international community and undermine its government.

The ministry said, “Reckless remarks by an old lunatic like Trump will never scare us or stop our advance. On the contrary, all this makes us more sure that our choice to promote economic construction at the same time as building up our nuclear force is all the more righteous, and it pushes us to speed up the effort to complete our nuclear force.”

North Korea is not known to have tested any of its missiles or nuclear devices since Sept. 15, a relative lull after a brisk series of tests earlier this year.


7:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is brushing off recent reports that the U.S. commerce secretary had interest in a company that does business with a major Russian company with possible ties to Putin relatives.

Reports this week said Wilbur Ross is a shareholder in a shipping company that relies on the Russian company Sibur for much of its revenue. A man reported to be one of Putin’s sons-in-law is believed to be a major Sibur shareholder.

Putin said Saturday that “This is nothing more than business. It never had and does not have any relation with politics.”

Putin also rejected any Russian connection to the recently indicted former campaign manager of President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort.

Manafort is charged with offenses including failing to register as a foreign agent while advising the party of Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-friendly Ukrainan president who was ousted amid massive street protests in 2014.


6:55 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the lack of a formal meeting with President Donald Trump at a conference in Vietnam reflects continuing tense relations between their countries.

Putin and Trump had several brief exchanges Friday night and Saturday as world leaders gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. They did not have a formal, one-on-one meeting.

Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying that the lack of a formal meeting shows that U.S.-Russia relations have “not yet emerged from the state of crisis.”

But he was also quoted as blaming the absence of a sit-down on scheduling conflicts and “certain matters of the protocol” that couldn’t be worked out.


5:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he didn’t see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shin-zoh AH’-bay) take a tumble on the golf course.

But he says, if it was Abe, “I’m very impressed because (Abe is) better than any gymnast I’ve ever seen.”

Trump made the remarks to reporters aboard Air Force One as it headed toward Hanoi, Vietnam, for meetings and a state banquet.

Japan’s TV Tokyo aired footage of a player identified as Abe trying repeatedly to hit his ball out of a steep bunker. As he finally made the shot, Trump began walking away, and Abe ran up the side of the bunker to catch up.

But just as the 63-year-old prime minister stepped onto the grass, he slipped, making a backward flip down into the sand. He quickly stood up and picked up his cap.


5:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Russia President Vladimir Putin once again denied meddling in the 2016 election during their conversations Saturday at a summit in Vietnam.

And Trump still won’t say definitively whether he believes Putin.

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that every time Putin sees him he says: “I didn’t do that.”

Says Trump: “And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that he means it.”

Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election to try to help Trump win. Multiple investigations are also under way to determine whether Trump campaign officials colluded with them.

Trump dismissed the heads of those agencies as “political hacks.” He says there’s plenty of reason to be suspicious of their findings.


5:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is blaming Democrats for creating an “artificial barrier” to U.S.-Russian relations by accusing Russia of meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump tells reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Hanoi that the allegations, which he’s dismissed as a witch hunt in the past, are damaging his ability to work with Russia. And he says that’s putting lives at stake.

He says the “artificial barrier” gets in the way of putting global pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Without that obstacle, Trump says, “we could really be helped a lot, tremendously with Russia having to do with North Korea.”

He goes on to say that, “If we can save many, many, many lives by making a deal with Russia having to do with Syria, and then ultimately getting Syria solved and getting Ukraine solved and doing other things, having a good relationship with Russia’s a great, great thing. And this artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way,” he says, adding that, “people will die because of it.”



Tokyo’s main stock index closes at quarter-century high — Nikkei 225 gained 389.25 points to close at 22,937.60, the highest level since January 1992

November 7, 2017


© AFP | Tokyo’s benchmark stock index closed a quarter century high
TOKYO (AFP) – Tokyo’s benchmark stock index closed at a quarter-century high on Tuesday, rising by 1.73 percent amid eased concerns over geopolitical risks and on expectations for sound corporate earnings.

The Nikkei 225 gained 389.25 points to close at 22,937.60, the highest level since January 1992.

The broader Topix index advanced 1.15 percent, or 20.63 points, to 1,813.29.

“Foreign investors are seen actively buying on expectations for brisk corporate earnings,” Hiroaki Hiwata, strategist at Toyo Securities, told AFP.

“Investor sentiment has been supported by political stability in Japan after a general election” last month that resulted in a comfortable victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he added.

Analysts also pointed to some relief from the fact that there has not yet been any significant news to upset the market during US President Donald Trump’s tour in Asia amid lingering tension over North Korea.

Trump: Japan could shoot down North Korean missiles

November 6, 2017

BBC News
November 6, 2017

US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) before a summit meeting at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on 6 November 2017.
US President Donald Trump is visiting Japan as part of his first tour of Asia as US president. AFP

US President Donald Trump has said Japan could shoot North Korean missiles “out of the sky” with military equipment bought from the US.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe meanwhile said his country could intercept missiles “if necessary”.

The two leaders were speaking to reporters at the close of Mr Trump’s first state visit to Japan.

North Korea has fired long-range ballistic missiles over Japanese territory twice in recent months.

On Monday, while answering questions at a press conference, Mr Trump said Mr Abe was “going to purchase massive amounts of military equipment” from the US.

Referencing North Korea’s missiles, he said Mr Abe could “shoot them out of the sky” when he completed the purchase, which he said would provide jobs to Americans as well as “safety for Japan”.

Mr Abe said Japan had to “qualitatively and quantitatively” enhance its defence capability, given the “very tough” North Korea situation.

He stressed that missile defence was based on “legal co-operation” between Japan and the US, and as for shooting down missiles, “if necessary of course we can do that”.

It is not clear whether a military deal has been signed during Mr Trump’s trip, but the two countries are close military allies with the US maintaining several military bases in Japan.

In September Mr Trump had tweeted that he would allow the sale of high-end military equipment to Japan and South Korea.

Japan does not have a standing army, but instead maintains what it calls a self-defence force, under its post-war pacifist constitution which the hawkish Mr Abe has been seeking to revise.

The two leaders also reaffirmed their ties and pledged to “stand against the North Korean menace”, said Mr Trump.

Mr Trump is visiting Japan as part of his first tour of Asia as US president.

Earlier in his visit he also visited a US air base near Tokyo, and met American business leaders where he publically criticised Japan over a trade deficit.

Mr Trump will be visiting South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines in the coming week.

Trump declares North Korea “threat to the civilized world” — U.S. “will not stand” for Pyongyang menacing America or its allies

November 6, 2017

The Associated Press

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President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands before a bilateral meeting at the Akasaka Palace, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, in Tokyo.

TOKYO (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.

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President Donald Trump, left, is greeted by Emperor Akihito, center, and Empress Michiko upon his arrival at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Nov. 6, 2017. Eugene Hoshiko, Pool/AP

“We’ve just heard the very sad stories about family members — daughters, wives, brothers uncles, fathers – it’s a very, very sad number of stories that we’ve heard,” Trump said

Trump and first lady Melania Trump stood with nearly two dozen relatives, some of whom held photos of the missing. 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.

But Trump’s message on the second day of his five-country Asian tour was overshadowed by another tragic shooting back home.

Trump called the Texas church shooting that claimed at least 26 lives “an act of evil,” denounced the violence in “a place of sacred worship” and pledged the full support of the federal government. He said that in a time of grief “Americans will do what we do best: we pull together and join hands and lock arms and through the tears and sadness we stand strong.”

He later suggested that the shooter had mental health issues and waved off a question about gun control, saying of the massacre, “this isn’t a guns situation.”

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.

“We will have more trade than anybody ever thought under TPP. That I can tell you,” Trump said. He said the multinational agreement was not the right deal for the United States and that while “probably some of you in this room disagree … ultimately I’ll be proven to be right.”

Abe, for his part, publicly deflected questions about trade.

The president seemed at ease in front of his CEO peers, calling out some by name, teasing that the first lady had to sell her Boeing stock once he took office and calling for Japanese automakers to make more of their cars in America, though major companies like Toyota and Nissan already build many vehicles in the United States. He promised that profits would soon rise on both sides of the Pacific once new agreements were struck.

“We’ll have to negotiate that out and it’ll be a very friendly negotiation,” Trump said, suggesting it would be done “quickly” and “easily.”

Japan orchestrated a lavish formal welcome for the Trumps, complete with military honor guard and an audience with Japan’s Emperor Akihito and his wife, Empress Michiko, at the Imperial Palace.

That event, like so much formal diplomacy in Asia, is stepped in tradition, with violations of protocol potentially considered grievous offenses. Trump, meanwhile, sports a spontaneous and, at times, impatient manner, on display again Monday when he and Abe took part in a traditional feeding of koi in a pond.

At first, Trump followed Abe’s lead by gently spooning out small amounts of feed into the pond below. But while Abe then gracefully slipped the remainder of his box into the pond below, Trump abruptly stopped and, as cameras clicked, theatrically dumped the rest of his supply down to the fish.

Abe laughed.


Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.


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Dollar Hits Eight-Month High Versus Yen With Promise of Continued Easing in Japan

November 6, 2017

Japan is sticking by extreme easing policies such as negative interest rates while the U.S. tightens

TOKYO—The yen fell to a nearly eight-month low against the U.S. dollar on Monday despite tough talk on trade by President Donald Trump on a visit to Japan, reflecting diverging monetary policy in Tokyo and Washington.

The dollar reached as high as ¥114.73 versus ¥114 in early Asia trading after Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda told business leaders in Nagoya that the central bank’s easy monetary-policy stance would continue for some time to come. It was recently around ¥114.31.

While Mr. Kuroda has delivered a similar message before, his remarks underscored how Japan is sticking by extreme easing policies such as negative interest rates while the U.S. tightens. The Federal Reserve is widely expected to increase rates again in December.

“Mr. Kuroda continues to be seen as a deflation fighter,” said Toshiyuki Suzuki, senior market economist with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

The central banker said he thinks that “upward pressure on prices has been increasing gradually” but that “there is still a long way to go to achieve the price-stability target of 2%.”

Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe signed hats reading ‘Donald and Shinzo, Make Alliance Even Greater’ at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Japan.Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Image

The dollar was trading below ¥110 in the first half of September but has since staged a rally and stands around the highest level against the yen since March.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party won parliamentary elections last month, and Mr. Abe was re-elected prime minister. That has increased the chances that the Bank of Japan’s loose monetary policy will continue after Mr. Kuroda’s term ends in April, regardless of whether Mr. Abe selects Mr. Kuroda for a second term.

Traders said recent signs that Mr. Kuroda would stay on in his job have buoyed the dollar against the yen.

One risk factor for the dollar’s strength could be Mr. Trump’s trade policy. The president played golf with Mr. Abe on Sunday after arriving in Japan to start a visit through Asia that includes South Korea, China and the Philippines.

On Monday, Mr. Trump told Japanese and U.S. business leaders that he would like to reduce the trade deficit with Japan.

“Our trade with Japan is not free, and it’s not reciprocal, and I know it will be,” he said.

Past U.S. administrations have at times sought a stronger yen to reduce Japan’s trade surplus, but Mr. Trump didn’t discuss currencies. Mr. Suzuki of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said the president was restating a familiar point and that his remarks didn’t pressure the dollar-yen rate

“The market didn’t think it was strong enough,” Mr. Suzuki said.

The yen weakness briefly pushed the Nikkei Stock Average to the cusp of levels not seen in 25 years, rising as much as 0.5% in morning trading after a three-day weekend before falling back. It ended up 0.04% at 22548.35 on Monday.

—Megumi Fujikawa contributed to this article.

‘No dictator’ should underestimate US resolve, says Trump as he kicks off Asia tour

November 5, 2017


U.S. President Donald Trump waves to the U.S. troops at the U.S. Yokota Air Base, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. President Trump arrived in Japan Sunday on a five-nation trip to Asia, his second extended foreign trip since taking office and his first to Asia. The trip will take him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Philippines for summits of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

YOKOTA AIR BASE (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Sunday (Nov 5) warned that “no dictator” should underestimate the United States, in a thinly veiled reference to North Korea, which is likely to dominate his Asian tour.

Speaking to cheering servicemen at Yokota Air Base just west of Tokyo, Trump donned a military jacket offered to him and issued a threat that “no one, no dictator, no regime and no nation should underestimate… American resolve”.

“Every once in a while in the past, they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them, was it?” roared Trump.

“We will never yield, never waver and never falter in defence of our people, our freedom and our great American flag.”

Trump’s marathon trip comes with the North Korea crisis at fever pitch, with US bombers running sorties over the Korean peninsula and fears mounting of another Pyongyang missile test.

The president’s first stops are Japan and South Korea – frontline US allies in the effort to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programme, and the two countries with most to fear should a full-scale conflict break out.

Trump touched down under clear blue Tokyo skies and stepped out with his wife Melania in bright sunshine to greet the crowds.

US President Donald Trump receives a bomber jacket from the US Pacific Air Forces as First Lady Melania Trump looks on. PHOTO: AFP

Speaking to reporters on the plane, he announced he would likely be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin during the tour, as the international community battles for a solution to the North Korean missile crisis.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” said Trump.

He added that North Korea was a “big problem for our country and for the world, and we want to get it solved” but had kind words for the people in the hermit state.

“I think they’re great people. They’re industrious. They’re warm, much warmer than the world really knows or understands. They’re great people. And I hope it all works out for everybody,” he said.

The next stop for Trump is a golfing date with his “friend” Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan, which has seen missiles fired over its northern island amid threats by Pyongyang to “sink” it into the sea.

US President Donald Trump holds up a hat as he speaks with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a luncheon at the Kasumigaseki Country Club. PHOTO: AFP

Trump and Abe enjoy a close personal relationship and the three-day Japan leg of the trip is noticeably relaxed, with the two leaders being serenaded by wacky internet sensation Pikotaro after their nine holes.

The Japanese leader has emerged strengthened from a crushing victory in a snap election and has firmly supported Trump in his policy of exerting maximum pressure on Kim, backed up with the threat of military force.

“I want to further cement the bond of the Japan-US alliance, based on our relations of trust and friendship with President Trump,” said Abe as Trump arrived.

Trump for his part described Japan as a “treasured partner and crucial ally of the US”.

“Trump only has to play golf in Japan, as he knows Japan will follow (the US) whatever happens. Everything has been sorted out beforehand,” Tetsuro Kato, political scientist at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University, told AFP.

While Trump has been in regular contact with the hawkish Abe during the North Korean missile crisis, he pointedly failed to speak to South Korean President Moon Jae In for several days after Pyongyang’s second intercontinental ballistic missile test in July.

Analysts point to Abe and Moon’s contrasting approaches to the crisis as an underlying factor, although both leaders will be hoping to press Trump into reaffirming Washington’s steadfast commitment to their defence.
Trump labelled Moon’s approach as “appeasement” on Twitter, a comment that did not go down well in the Blue House.

Supporters hold signs as they wait for US President Donald Trump outside Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe. PHOTO: REUTERS

“The two sides have subtle differences in their positions,” said Kim Hyun Wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. Trump will not follow the well-trodden path to the De-Militarised Zone dividing the Korean peninsula – a visit derided in Washington as a bit of a “cliche.” From Seoul, Trump travels to China to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping who, like Abe, has solidified his grip on power, after being handed a second term.

Trump said before his trip that China could have a “big problem” with “warrior nation” Japan if the North Korea issue is not solved.

He then travels to an Apec summit in Vietnam before heading to a Asean gathering of South-east Asian leaders.

Some observers were fretting that a gaffe by the famously ad-lib president could send tensions rising on the peninsula.

“It will be a disaster if he speaks off the cuff and without thinking,” said professor Koo Kab Woo from the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“If Trump says anything that can provoke North Korea, it could send military tensions soaring again.”

Trump said Japan should have shot down overflying North Korea missiles

November 5, 2017


NOV 5, 2017
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Air Self-Defense Force members demonstrate the PAC-3 surface-to-air interceptors at the U.S. Yokota Air Base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, on Aug. 29. | AP

U.S. President Donald Trump has said Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, diplomatic sources have said, despite the difficulties and potential ramifications of doing so.

The revelation came ahead of Trump’s arrival in Japan on Sunday at the start of his five-nation trip to Asia. Threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs were set to be high on the agenda in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

Trump questioned Japan’s decision not to shoot down the missiles when he met or spoke by phone with leaders from Southeast Asian countries over recent months to discuss how to respond to the threats from North Korea, the sources said.

The U.S. president said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, the sources said.

In defiance of international sanctions imposed to compel Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile development programs, North Korea test-launched ballistic missiles on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15 that flew over Hokkaido before falling into the Pacific Ocean.

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Patriot missiles in Japan

However, the Self-Defense Forces did not try to intercept the missiles, with the government saying the SDF had monitored the rockets from launch and judged they would not land on Japanese territory.

But the altitude and speed of the missiles would have made it very difficult to destroy them in flight, while failure would have been embarrassing for Japan and encouraging to North Korea.

Defense Ministry officials confirmed this view and said there were also legal issues to clear.

On Sept. 3, the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test by detonating what it said was a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

While the United States and its allies and partners have been pressing North Korea to denuclearize, the Trump administration says it is keeping all options — including military action — on the table in dealing with the situation.

Asia braces for Trump and his unpredictable foreign policy

November 2, 2017
In this July 6, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in before the Northeast Asia Security dinner at the US Consulate General Hamburg, in Hamburg. The U.S. president, who will visit Japan, South Korea and China before attending regional summits in Vietnam and the Philippines, has blended moments of flattery with vows to rip up trade deals, destroy a sovereign nation with nuclear weapons and generally crash longstanding norms of diplomacy anywhere it suits his aims. AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
BEIJING — Donald Trump vowed a more “unpredictable” foreign policy when he campaigned for president. Mission accomplished, if the mood in Asia ahead of his first presidential trip to the region is any indication.

Much like the prelude to a bruising typhoon, Trump’s upcoming visit has inspired fear, resignation, indignation, morbid curiosity—even, according to one South Korean politician, feelings of national disgrace.
During his first months as president, Trump, who will visit Japan, South Korea and China before attending regional summits in Vietnam and the Philippines, has blended moments of flattery with vows to rip up trade deals, destroy a sovereign nation with nuclear weapons and generally crash long-standing norms of diplomacy anywhere it suits his aims.
He has wined and dined the leaders of China and Japan, and been fawned over in return, and his shaky ties with South Korea’s leader have led to worries that Washington could take military action against North Korea without Seoul’s approval.
Looming over his entire trip is one of the strangest relationships in the world—an often surreal exchange of threats of annihilation between North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Trump, who has also occasionally offered praise and dialogue.
It’s something of a marvel then that despite Trump’s unpredictability and the torpedoing of an Obama-era trade deal, there may actually be more continuity than change in Washington’s Asia policy.
“People joke that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds. The same can be said for Trump’s Asia policy and relationships,” longtime Asia analyst Ralph Cossa said, referring to the notoriously complex German composer.
“This will be put to the test when he goes to Asia, but I think the visit is likely to be more successful than many fear or predict.”
A look at some of the issues and leaders Trump will face during his trip, which begins when he arrives in Japan on Sunday:

‘Smart cookie’ in North Korea


Unlike most of his recent predecessors, Trump will not visit the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone that looks out over North Korea.
Still, his quarrel with the North’s ruler will dominate the trip.
Amid North Korean nuclear and missile tests and a standard barrage of belligerent rhetoric, Trump has veered from threats to unleash “fire and fury” on the North to calling Kim a “pretty smart cookie” and saying he’d be “honored” to talk, under the right circumstances.
Trump’s comments have caused both confusion and fears of war, especially in Japan and South Korea, but it is unclear how seriously to take declarations that don’t appear to be policy pronouncements.
North Korea accused Trump of openly pursuing what it called a “crazy strategy.” The state newspaper said in a commentary Thursday that the American president regards the strategy as a powerful means to advance his “America first” policy.
Trump likes to say that a soft policy by his predecessor, Barack Obama, has allowed North Korea to stand on the brink of a viable arsenal of nuclear-armed missiles that can hit US mainland cities.
Despite his criticism, Trump has yet to distinguish his own approach from Obama’s, Bruce Klingner, a North Korea specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, told US lawmakers in July.
“Trump’s policy of ‘maximum pressure’ to date has been anything but,” Klingner said, and sends mixed messages about whether Washington will pursue diplomacy or war to deal with Pyongyang.

‘Disgrace’ in South Korea


Trump’s ties with South Korea’s liberal president, Moon Jae-in, are causing some serious angst in the country.
Moon took office in May with hopes of reaching out to Pyongyang. But a parade of North Korean missile and nuclear tests has forced him to take a harder line.
While he has gone out of his way to emphasize coordination with Trump, a strain between the allies is evident.
Trump has suggested that Seoul should pay the entire cost of a US missile defense system in the South that many there don’t even want. He also threatened to end a hard-won US-South Korean free trade agreement that past American presidents had portrayed as an alliance bulwark.
Amid dueling threats by Trump and Kim Jong Un, Moon has issued pointed reminders that there can be no US military action without Seoul’s consent.
South Koreans have long fretted about being pushed out of efforts to deal with the North—a fear so prevalent it has a name: “Korea Passing.” The headline on a recent editorial in the daily Dong-A Ilbo is telling: “If Moon becomes Trump’s ‘friend,’ Korea Passing will disappear.”
There has also been anxiety that Trump will spend more time in both China and Japan than in South Korea on his trip.
Ahn Cheol-soo, a South Korean opposition politician, said recently that it’s disappointing that Trump “stays just briefly in South Korea, the country directly involved in the Korean Peninsula problem that has the rapt attention of the world. This feels really bad—our country has been disgraced.”

‘The king of China’


Trump won cheers during the presidential campaign by attacking China for allegedly stealing American jobs and failing to use its influence to stop ally North Korea’s nuclear drive.
But as president, Trump has cozied up to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“People say we have the best relationship of any president-president,” Trump recently told Fox Business Network, referring to Xi, whom he called “a very good person.”
“Now, some people might call him the king of China. But he’s called president,” Trump said.
Trump has, in some ways, been good for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, according to Robert Dujarric, an Asia expert at Temple University Japan, because he has raised global doubts about Washington by undermining institutions that serve US interests and impede those of China.
Trump, for instance, pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal Obama negotiated with 11 Pacific Rim countries that was pitched, in part, as a way to counter China.
During his trip, Trump may push China on trade barriers and to better implement U.N. sanctions on North Korea. But he can expect a royal reception in Beijing, including fawning press coverage and grand ceremonies aimed at boosting his impressions of Chinese power.

‘Influence’ in Japan


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be the Asian leader most confident in his relationship with Trump.
He was one of the first to pay court to President-elect Trump, eager to forge a bond with Tokyo’s crucial ally. Trump, in turn, has raised an issue important to Abe: North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese citizens.
There’s worry in Tokyo about Trump’s tough talk on trade, and the possibility that US military action against North Korea could endanger Japan. But Abe has generally avoided confronting Trump, at least in public.
From golf to private dinners to an audience with the emperor, Trump’s Japan “visit is designed to not only offer visual evidence of the close partnership, but also to avoid any uncomfortable issues, such as trade,” Daniel Sneider, an East Asia specialist at Stanford University, wrote recently.
Abe’s “senior advisers claim to wield an influence over Trump that is the envy of other US allies,” Sneider said. “But that relationship depends on Abe consciously avoiding any challenge to Trump’s policies. Does his influence disappear the moment he crosses Trump?”
Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyung and Youkyung Lee in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

Japan’s Looming Constitutional Battle: Abe Wants Amendment Allowing Japan to Go to War Again

October 29, 2017


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With a successful (if controversial) snap election on the books, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has turned his eyes to his longstanding goal of amending the Constitution of Japan to allow the nation to declare war on its enemies – but this is a task easier said than done.

On Monday, Abe vowed to see the constitution amended to remove Article 9, which reads “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” The article adds that Japan may not maintain “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential.”

The 1947 constitution was written at a time when Japan was utterly ravaged following World War II, not to mention under US occupation. The belligerent behavior of Imperial Japan caused the Americans to pressure the feeble post-war government into the strict restrictions on Japanese use of military force.

But that was 70 years ago. In 2017, Japan has the eighth-highest military budget in the world, with almost 250,000 personnel and a robust and sophisticated navy. The very existence of this force also violates the letter of Article 9, which Tokyo skirts by claiming that the purpose of this military is to defend Japan from attack, not declare war.

On the surface, an amendment seems doable. Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats (LDP), control an absolute majority in the National Diet’s House of Representatives and are part of a coalition government in the less powerful House of Councillors.

But it’s no small feat to amend the Japanese constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet, then an absolute majority of voters during a referendum. In the 70 years since it was adopted, the constitution has never once been successfully amended.

Abe said earlier in 2017 that he wished to see the constitution amended by 2020, but he has walked back that comment, claiming that his new plan is “not bound by any schedule.”

While the LDP’s commanding presence in the Diet makes it quite feasible to gain the two-thirds majority necessary to amend the constitution, the referendum is another story. A poll by Asahi earlier in October found that 55 percent of the Japanese public opposed repealing Article 9.

Shigeru Ishiba, an LDP member and one of Abe’s economic ministers, has been a leading voice in amending the constitution to allow Japan to declare war, but he also said that it would prove “extremely difficult” to get the population behind such an initiative.

Abe, who has been prime minister since 2012, has been noted for his militaristic and nationalist sympathies. In 2015, the LDP passed a series of laws that would allow the Japanese Self Defense Forces to participate in foreign conflicts. The legislation was unpopular both in Japan and abroad, with some legal scholars calling it unconstitutional.

On Sunday, the LDP came out victorious in a snap election called by Abe, who retained his prime ministership as well as his party’s supermajority in the Diet. However, the LDP’s success has been attributed less to Abe’s popularity (his approval rating sits at about 39 percent, according to Japan Macro Advisors) and is more due to the sloppy, disunified state of the LDP’s rival parties. The election also had a very low turnout, the second lowest of any post-World War II election.

The new opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), ran on a platform of rejecting the amendment of Article 9, as well as liberal policies like replacing nuclear power plants with renewable energy. Pacifist factions remain influential on the Japanese left, and will ardently oppose any attempt to kill Article 9.

Another party that has been skeptical about repealing Amendment 9 is Komeito, the party that the LDP coalitions with in the House of Councillors. A socially conservative Buddhist party, Komeito has been cool on any amendments to the constitution, and Abe has run into difficulty trying to find a way to secure their support.

Security challenges have also been a theme of Abe’s prime ministership. North Korean leaders and spokesmen have repeatedly threatened to unleash their nuclear arsenal on Japan in 2017, and Japan has repeatedly butted heads with China over disputed territory in the East China Sea.

US’s Jim Mattis: North Korea nuclear threat is accelerating

October 28, 2017

The US defense chief Jim Mattis has warned Pyongyang that the US would not accept North Korea as a nuclear power. Washington and Seoul have agreed to further cooperate on defense issues.

James Mattis in South Korea (picture alliance/AP/J. Yeon-Je)

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Saturday threatened North Korea with “a massive military response” should it decide to use nuclear weapons.

Mattis said the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea was accelerating, but that it was still no match for US and South Korean firepower.

“North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs,” he said during his second day in South Korea for annual defense talks.

Read more: Jim Mattis says US goal not war with North Korea

Mattis said diplomacy remained a “preferred course of action” but stressed, “our diplomats are most effective when backed by credible military force.”

“Make no mistake — any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated.”

Increasing missile payload

Read more: Japan PM Shinzo Abe pledges pressure on North Korea after big election win

He underscored that the US would not accept the North as a nuclear power, speaking at a joint news conference with his South Korean counterpart Song Young Moo.

Song told journalists that he and Mattis had agreed to cooperate further on strengthening Seoul’s defense capabilities. He said measures would include lifting warhead payload limits on South Korean conventional missiles and supporting the country’s acquisition of “most advanced military assets.”

He refused to answer questions on nuclear-powered submarines though, which some South Korean officials have been calling for.

Will not redeploy nuclear weapons

Read more: North Korean envoy says nuclear war could break out at ‘any moment’

Some conservative politicians in the south have also been calling for the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, but Mattis and Song were both dismissive of the idea.