TOKYO — President Trump donned a military-style bomber jacket shortly after arriving Sunday in Japan and projected confidence that the United States will confront threats in Asia, telling hundreds of U.S. troops that they will have his administration’s support “to fight, to overpower and to always, always, always win.”

Trump’s tough talk in a speech to U.S. and Japanese military personnel at Yokota Air Base, shortly after Air Force One touched down here, aimed to set a tone for his five-nation tour, during which the president said he is likely to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president told reporters during his flight here that he wants “Putin’s help on North Korea,” as his administration tries to consolidate support for its strategy to pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program.

“History has proven over and over that the road of the tyrant is a steady march towards poverty, suffering and servitude,” Trump told the troops, perhaps referring obliquely to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, whose name he did not mention. Noting that he has proposed a bigger military budget, Trump surveyed the troops in an air base hangar and declared: “We’ve got a lot of stuff coming; use it well.”


The boisterous scene, during which the troops cheered and chanted “U.S.A.!” was closely watched in capitals across northeast Asia, where governments from Seoul to Beijing are looking for signals of how Trump will address the threat on his first trip to the region. The president’s heightened rhetoric aimed at North Korea and the Kim regime has set the region on edge over concerns that increasing tensions could result in a military confrontation.

On the plane, Trump told reporters that he plans to decide “very soon” whether to relabel North Korea a state sponsor of terror. The North spent 10 years on that list before being removed in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration for meeting nuclear inspection requirements. Pyongyang later violated the agreement.

But Trump also offered encouragement for North Korean citizens, calling them “great people.”

“They’re industrious, they’re warm, much warmer than the world really knows and understands,” he told reporters on the plane. “They’re great people and I hope it all works out for everybody. And it would be a wonderful thing if it could work for those great people, and for everybody.”

And he seemed unconcerned about the prospect that North Korea might use his trip to the region to demonstrate its military might by firing a missile. “We’ll soon find out,” he said. “Good luck!”


After speaking at the air base, Trump spent the day with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, playing nine holes of golf, though a White House official said they did not keep score. At the golf course, Abe took pains to ensure Trump felt comfortable: He presented Trump with white baseball caps with the embroidered words: “Donald and Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater,” which both men signed, and he served Trump, who can be picky about his food, a burger specially made from American beef.

On Monday, the two will hold formal bilateral meetings to talk about security and trade; first lady Melania Trump, who is accompanying her husband, will join the president for a morning meeting with Japanese Emperor Akihito and then take part in separate slate of events.

Trump will also visit South Korea and China and attend summits in Vietnam and the Philippines.


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