President Trump is in Japan for the first official state visit since Japanese Emperor Naruhito assumed the throne.
The president and first lady Melania Trump have already dined with Japanese business leaders and will attend a sumo wrestling match, at which Trump will present the winner with a trophy called the “President’s Cup.”
Emperor Naruhito and his Harvard-educated wife, Empress Masako, will host an imperial state banquet for Trump. The president’s trip will also include a visit to a naval base and bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Top of their agenda will be trade and North Korea. Michael Green, the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told NPR, “The Japanese economy is No. 3 in the world, behind the U.S. and China, so it’s a really important relationship that both leaders need to move forward. Prime Minister Abe really needs Donald Trump to move past his 1980s vision of Japan, and see the great potential in the relationship.”
Green was also a senior adviser to President George W. Bush and the National Security Council.
In 1987, Trump took out a full-page newspaper ad declaring: “Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States.”
As president, Trump has maintained the view of Japan as an economic rival, rather than an ally, and has kept tariffs on Japanese metals in place, while lifting tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico. Trump has also threatened Japan with duties on autos. Last week, Trump said he had decided to delay those new auto tariffs for six months. Trump is seeking a bilateral trade deal with Japan, after pulling the U.S. out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Concerns over North Korea, and its resumption of short-range missile tests earlier this month, will also be a focus of Trump’s meeting with Abe. Japan has urged the Trump administration to maintain pressure on North Korea and has said this month’s missile tests are a violation of U.N. resolutions.
NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe reports, “Japan wants to show it’s the U.S.’s best friend in the region, and this is important because Japan is dealing with China on the one hand, trying to assert its dominance, and North Korea on the other, being confrontational. Prime Minister Abe has invested a lot into developing a personal relationship with Trump, and in many ways, this trip will be an extension of that.”