US President Donald Trump landed yesterday in Japan, in the first leg of a gruelling five-nation tour of Asia, and lost no time in issuing a warning to North Korea, whose missile provocations have become his key foreign policy challenge.
Speaking to American and Japanese servicemen at the Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo moments after he touched down, he said, without directly referring to the North: "No one - no dictator, no regime and no nation - should underestimate, ever, American resolve."
"We will never yield, never waver and never falter in defence of our freedom," he added.
North Korea was prepared for Mr Trump's salvo. An editorial yesterday in Rodong Sinmun, the ruling party's mouthpiece, said it was "spiritually instable" that Mr Trump is in a position to order a nuclear strike, and that his often-repeated tough remarks against Pyongyang "can bring about nuclear disaster to the US mainland".
Mr Trump, in his maiden trip to Asia as President, is also visiting South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, and aims to impress on leaders that "time is running out" on the North Korean crisis.
He will attend three high-level summits - the Asean-US summit, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, and the East Asia Summit - and is expected to hold talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Earlier yesterday, Mr Trump said on board Air Force One that a decision on whether to declare North Korea a "state sponsor of terrorism" and blacklist it was imminent. Pyongyang was blacklisted from 1998 to 2008, with sanctions imposed on it.
In Japan - which Mr Trump described as a "crucial US ally" and a "cornerstone of sovereignty, security and prosperity" for six decades - he will hold a fifth bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today. A White House official said they will discuss how the US can help strengthen Japan's defence, as well as trilateral cooperation with South Korea in such areas as anti-submarine warfare and ballistic missile defence.
They will also discuss how to promulgate Japan's "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy" along with stakeholders like India and Australia. Mr Abe presented this strategy last year to promote freedom of navigation in the region, ostensibly to curb Chinese expansionism.
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that Mr Trump and Mr Abe are likely to talk about how to evacuate Japanese citizens in South Korea in an emergency. There are about 60,000 Japanese and over 200,000 US citizens there.
Kyodo news agency reported that Mr Trump questioned, in recent talks with South-east Asian leaders, why Japan as a "samurai warrior nation" did not shoot down North Korean missiles that flew over Hokkaido. Japan has said it deemed that they did not pose any danger.
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