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Trump's Visit To Japan Is Overshadowed By Trade Tensions


President Trump says he is not, quote, "personally bothered" by recent short-range missile tests that North Korea has been conducting. He said that this morning in a joint press conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The president is in Japan for a four-day state visit, and NPR's White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe is traveling with him.

Hi, Ayesha.


KING: All right, so President Trump says he is not personally bothered by these North Korean missile tests. What did Shinzo Abe, standing next to him, have to say about that?

RASCOE: Well, after Trump kind of downplayed North Korea's latest missile launches, Abe had this to say.



RASCOE: So for those that don't speak Japanese, through a translator, we heard him call the test a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution. And he said it was regrettable that North Korea was taking these actions. So Trump and Abe say they're on the same page. And largely, they do seem to be. But there are some differences there.

KING: Trump also seemed to be making some promises today on the podium next to Abe. What was he offering? What was he saying he's going to do or the U.S. is going to do?

RASCOE: Well, over and over again, you had Trump talking about how he expects to make all these deals on national security or on trade with various countries. What you didn't hear was how he will actually make that happen. He said he expects an agreement with China. Here's more on that.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think some time in the future, China and the United States will absolutely have a great trade deal. And we look forward to that.

RASCOE: But he didn't say how those two countries will be able to come together. Talks have fallen apart, and the countries are now trading tariffs and retaliating against each other. He also says he wants a quick deal with Japan. He said there may be a big announcement on this in August, but he didn't say how the countries are going to kind of come together on the issue of car exports. Japan does not want tariffs, and Trump has said he's considering this. And he hasn't taken that option off the table.

KING: So this is interesting because Abe said today that Japan would be buying more than 130 F-35 - excuse me - more than 100 F-35 warplanes from the U.S. That is about trade, right? Explain what's going on there.

RASCOE: Well, it's about national security and building up the military, but it's also something that the Japanese can point to as helping to lower that trade deficit. These F-35s cost a lot of money, and it's a huge investment. And they can say, look. We're doing business with the U.S. We're not trying to take advantage of you on trade.

KING: This trip - the president's trip has gone on for the past several days. What has he been doing while he's been in Japan?

RASCOE: Well, this trip has really been all about kind of showing the close ties between Trump and Abe and Japan and the U.S., so there was some golf. And then there was also a sumo competition. There was the meeting with the new emperor. And so they have been really trying to show that the U.S. and Japan are united. And Abe's gone out of his way not to criticize Trump, even when it comes to North Korea, and, basically, really showered Trump with praise.

KING: Was there anything notable about the meeting with the new emperor? - anything interesting.

RASCOE: Well, it was interesting just to see President Trump and the first lady meet with the emperor. They shook hands. President Trump was standing on this kind of raised platform and listening to the national - U.S. national anthem and the Japanese national anthem. So, I mean, there was just a lot of ceremony that went on with this and a lot of - kind of historic.

KING: Pomp and circumstance - the president's going to be back in Japan at the end of June for the G20 summit. He's going to meet with world leaders there. He has a busy next month or so, doesn't he?

RASCOE: Yes, he's going to Europe next week - stopping in London, going to France. He may not get as warm a welcome, especially in London, where there were big protests the last time he was there.

KING: Yeah.

RASCOE: And at the end of June, Trump will be back in Japan for the G20.

KING: NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.

Thanks so much, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.