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North Korea Expected To Be Major Topic Of Discussion For Trump In Asia


President Trump is headed to South Korea. It's the second stop on his tour of five Asian countries. The first stop was Japan, and both countries - South Korea and Japan - have been shaken by North Korea's increasingly aggressive tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. NPR's Scott Horsley is with us now from South Korea to talk about that and more. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So President Trump is going to be meeting soon with American and South Korean military troops. What is his message for them?

HORSLEY: Well, something like the best defense is a strong show of force. The president's going to be touring camp Humphreys in South Korea, which is a newly-expanded military base about 40 miles south of Seoul. Eventually that base is going to be home to many of the 28,000 American troops serving on the peninsula. And importantly, the camp is just out of range of North Korea's conventional artillery unlike the South Korean capital where many of those U.S. troops are stationed now.

The Trump administration wants to showcase the $11 billion base which was mostly paid for by South Korea as a positive example of what it calls burden-sharing. The president's also going to be speaking to the National Assembly, where he will be urging all countries to do more to put the brakes on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The era of strategic patience is over. Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong, but look what's happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we are right now.

HORSLEY: Trump also met with U.S. and Japanese troops at an airbase in Tokyo. And while he did not mention the North Korean leader by name there, he did say no foreign dictator should doubt America's military resolve.

MCEVERS: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to meet with President Trump after he was elected a year ago, and they seem to have a pretty strong personal bond. How did that shape the president's visit to Tokyo?

HORSLEY: You're right. They do seem to get along well. They're both avid golfers, and Abe has used that to cultivate this relationship. During his first meeting with Trump in New York, Abe gave the president a gold-tip driver. They played a round of golf together in Florida. They followed up with another nine holes in Tokyo over the weekend. And at a celebratory banquet, Abe joked they did not keep score on the golf course. That may be true there. When it comes to U.S.-Japanese trade relations, though, President Trump is definitely keeping score. And he told a group of American and Japanese business leaders he's unhappy because in his mind, Japan has been winning.


TRUMP: Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That's not - that's not rude. Is that rude? I don't think so.

HORSLEY: That's an argument Trump has been making since the 1980s. And by now, some of his facts are a little out of date. In fact, 3 out of 4 Japanese vehicles sold in the U.S. are already made in North America. But Trump complains Japanese consumers are not buying enough American-made cars. He wants to lower trade barriers with Japan even though he scuttled that big Asia-Pacific trade deal that was designed to do just that. The president also wants Japan to buy more U.S. military hardware to better defend itself against North Korea.

MCEVERS: And finally, though he is far away from the U.S., the president has been monitoring the deadly church shooting in Texas over the weekend. He reached out to Governor Greg Abbott to offer assistance. What's the president been saying about that?

HORSLEY: He says in tragic times, Americans pull together. And he added that all of America is praying for the shooting victims and their families. When he was asked, though, about what specific policies he might advocate to prevent this kind of attack in the future, Trump said it's too soon to be talking about anything like gun control.

MCEVERS: NPR's Scott Horsley in South Korea traveling with President Trump. Thank you so much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.