U.S. President Donald Trump, embarking on a five-nation Asian trip aimed at pressuring North Korea to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, warned Sunday that "no one, no dictator, no regime... should underestimate American resolve."
Trump told U.S. military personnel at Yokota Air Base in Japan, "Together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities." He said that "every once in a while, in the past, they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them, was it? It was not pleasant.”
Trump added, “History has proven over and over that the road of the tyrant is a steady march toward poverty, suffering, and servitude. But the path of strong nations and free people, certain of their values and confident in their futures, is a proven path toward prosperity and peace. We cherish our cultures, we embrace our values, and we always fight for what we believe in.”
He told the U.S. troops, "You are the greatest threat to tyrants and dictators who seek to prey on the innocent."
A senior administration official traveling with Trump said that much of his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and others leaders throughout the 13-day trip will center on thwarting Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
"The president's strategy — and this strategy is in complete alignment with our allies, South Korea and Japan, and, increasingly, the entire world — is to maximize pressure," the official said. "It is a diplomatic and economic campaign to maximize pressure on North Korea, to show — really to convince the leadership in North Korea that the one way out for them is to start reducing the threat and to move toward denuclearization."
As part of Trump's effort, the official said the U.S. leader "is very much focused on making sure that China [North Korea's main trading partner] lives up to all the obligations under the U.N. Security Council resolutions" to curb its trade with Pyongyang to deprive the reclusive communist nation of funds it needs to finance its weapons development.
The official also said Trump, while in Japan, on Monday will visit with families of Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korea, hoping to cast a spotlight "that's long overdue on the nature of that regime, and what that really means for their citizens and our own people in all of our countries."
After his stop at the U.S. military base, Trump took a 25-minute flight on Marine One to the Kasumigaseki Country Club near Tokyo, where he was greeted by Abe in front of the expansive clubhouse of the course that will play host to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic golf tournament.
As club members ate lunch, Trump and Abe, in the dining room, signed white hats reading “Donald and Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater.”
Following lunch, Trump played nine holes with Abe and professional Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama, whom he described in a Twitter comment as "two wonderful people." The senior administration official said it is believed that the three "did not keep score."
During the golf match, the official said Trump and Abe "talked a bit about North Korea." He said they would also discuss it at dinner Sunday night and again at meetings Monday. North Korea is "a topic of all their conversations," according to the official, who repeated that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other administration officials are "looking very closely right now" on whether to re-designate North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism.
In another Twitter remark, the U.S. leader said he was heading into the Asian trip "with great negotiating strength because of our tremendous economy," with its falling jobless rate and record stock prices on the major U.S. exchanges.
Message to North Korea
En route to Japan, the president spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One, where he was asked by VOA’s Steve Herman if he had any message for the North Korean people.
“I think they’re great people,” the president said. “They’re industrious. They’re warm, much warmer than the world really knows and understands, they’re great people. And I hope it all works out for everybody. It’ll be a wonderful thing if we can work it out for those great people and for everybody.”
Trump also indicated he expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in the Philippines later in the trip.
Stopover in Hawaii
Trump arrived in Japan after a stopover in Hawaii, where he paid a solemn visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the site of the surprise Japanese naval attack in 1941 that plunged the U.S. into World War II. He also received a classified briefing by the military at the U.S. Pacific Command.
Before departing for Japan, his first stop on a multination tour of Asia, Trump stopped at his Trump International Hotel in Waikiki and spoke with some employees.
Aside from Japan and the Philippines, Trump is visiting South Korea, China and Vietnam – his longest journey as president.