TOKYO — U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe presented a unified front against North Korea’s regime Monday, putting increased pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
“The era of strategic patience is over,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Abe.
Trump also defended his aggressive posture toward North Korea, which has sparked concerns among some U.S. allies that the president is escalating tensions in the region.
“Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong, but look what’s happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years,” he said. “Look where we are now.”
During a September speech at the United Nations, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and earlier this summer promised “fire and fury” if the rogue nation doesn’t stop its efforts to launch a nuclear weapon.
Abe, who has repeatedly touted his close relationship with Trump during the trip, echoed the U.S. president’s commitment to taking on the regime.
“We are together 100 percent,” Japan’s prime minister vowed.
“Now is the time not for dialogue, but for applying a maximum level of pressure on North Korea,” Abe said, urging China to do more to hobble Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
Abe also pledged to soon announce new sanctions on North Korea, including freezing the assets of 35 individuals and entities.
Trump also appeared to send a subtle message to North Korea’s leader that releasing Japanese citizens and others who were abducted and brought into the country would be an important sign of good will.
“That would be the start of something I think would be something very special, if he would do that,” Trump said.
Asked about a media report that Trump criticized Japan for not shooting North Korean missiles out of the sky when they passed over the nation, the president shifted focus to his bid to convince Abe to buy more U.S. equipment to better protect itself.
“He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional equipment from the United States,” Trump said, adding the purchases will result in “a lot of jobs for us and a lot of safety for Japan.” Abe later confirmed Japan would soon buy more U.S. military equipment.
While the U.S. and Japan do not always see eye to eye on trade, the leaders downplayed their differences during the press conference. Trump earlier Monday complained about the United States’ “massive” trade deficit with Japan. But the president told reporters the two countries are working to resolve the issue.
Trump also seemed optimistic he and Chinese President Xi Jinping could reach a compromise on trade, arguing the two countries aren’t as divided on the issues as people think.
“His views are different on things, but they’re pretty similar on trade,” Trump said of Xi, adding that U.S. and Chinese officials are in discussions over the trade deficit between the two nations.
But Trump nonetheless signaled his administration is still planning broader action on trade.
“You will see that the United States will be taking very, very strong action,” he said without offering specifics.
About a dozen senior administration officials attended Trump’s press conference, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and White House communications director Hope Hicks.
The president is scheduled to depart for South Korea on Tuesday, where North Korea’s aggression will be the central topic of discussion. He’ll then continue on to China, Vietnam and the Philippines.