U.S. President Donald Trump told servicemen Sunday at Yokota Air Base in Japan that “no one, no dictator, no regime … should underestimate American resolve.” His remarks came at the start of a nearly two-week Asian trip that is expected to focus on North Korea and trade.
Some of his comments, while directed at the American troops, could also be seem as a veiled warning to the isolated nation.
“You are the greatest threat to tyrants and dictators who seek to prey on the innocent,” he said.
After his speech at Yokota, the president took a 25-minute flight on Marine One to the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama prefecture (state) near Tokyo. He was greeted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the expansive clubhouse. The same course will play host to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic golf tournament.
As club members ate lunch, Trump and Abe, in the dining room, signed white hats reading “Donald and Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater.”
Following lunch, the two leaders played nine rounds with professional Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama. A senior administration official said it is believed that the three “did not keep score.”
During the golf match, the official said, Trump and Abe “talked a bit about North Korea.” He said they will also discuss it at dinner Sunday night and again at meetings Monday.
North Korea is “a topic of all their conversations” according to the official, who repeated that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other administration officials are “looking very closely right now” on whether to re-designate North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism.
Message to North Korea
En route to Japan, the president spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One, where he was asked by VOA’s Steve Herman if he had any message for the North Korean people.
“I think they’re great people,” the president said. “They’re industrious. They’re warm, much warmer than the world really knows and understands, they’re great people. And I hope it all works out for everybody. It’ll be a wonderful thing if we can work it out for those great people and for everybody.”
Trump also indicated he expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in the Philippines later in the trip.
Stopover in Hawaii
Trump arrived in Japan after a stopover in Hawaii, where he paid a solemn visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the site of the surprise Japanese naval attack in 1941 that plunged the U.S. into World War II. He also received a classified briefing by the military at the U.S. Pacific Command.
Before departing for Japan, his first stop on a multination tour of Asia, Trump stopped at his Trump International Hotel in Waikiki and spoke with some employees.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Trump “wanted to say hello and thank you to the employees for all their hard work.”
North Korea to dominate talks
Trump said he had wanted to spend another day in Hawaii at the end of what he called this “very important trip,” but canceled that plan to stay longer in the Philippines to attend the East Asia Summit, in addition to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting.
Before arriving in the Philippines, the 13-day trip will take Trump to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam, his longest journey as president.
In Trump’s meetings with other Asian leaders, the president is expected to tell them the world is “running out of time” to stop North Korea’s nuclear warhead and ballistic missile development, which U.S. administration officials deem to be the biggest threat currently faced.
“The discussions will be around mainly what more we can do now to resolve this, short of war, recognizing that all of us are running out of time,” according to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. “The United States, South Korea, Japan, China are running out of time on this.”