TOKYO (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump said yesterday that Japan would shoot North Korean missiles “out of the sky” if it bought the US weaponry needed for doing so, suggesting Tokyo take a stance it has avoided until now.
Mr Trump, speaking after a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, repeated his mantra the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea was over, and said the two countries were working to counter the “dangerous aggressions”.
Mr Trump also pressed Japan to lower its trade deficit with the US and buy more US military hardware.
“He [Abe] will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States,” Mr Trump said, referring to the North Korean missiles.
“The prime minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should. And we make the best military equipment by far.”
Mr Abe, for his part, said Tokyo would shoot down missiles “if necessary”.
Mr Trump was replying to a question that was posed to Mr Abe – namely how he would respond to a quote from Mr Trump from a recent interview in which he said Japan was a “samurai” nation and should have shot down the North Korean missiles.
Japan’s policy is that it would only shoot down a missile if it were falling on Japanese territory or if it were judged to pose an “existential threat” to Japan because it was aimed at a US target.
The US president is on the second day of a 12-day Asian trip that is focusing on North Korea’s nuclear missile programmes and trade.
“Most importantly, we’re working to counter the dangerous aggressions of the regime in North Korea,” Mr Trump said.