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Survey of newspaper editorials on Trump’s Asian tour

By Satoshi Sekoguchi


U.S. President Donald Trump just embarked on a tour of Asia, which is facing a number of crises, including rising tension in the North Korea situation and China‘s attempt to establish maritime hegemony. He demonstrated to the world the unshakable bonds of the Japan-U.S. alliance in his summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the two leaders confirmed that they will work together to overcome this difficult situation.


Sankei Shimbun gave high marks to Trump’s “great achievements on his first visit to Japan.” It supported applying stronger pressure on North Korea and noted that, “It is of great significance that the two leaders agreed that ‘dialogue for the sake of dialogue is meaningless’ and that now is the time to apply maximum pressure.”


Nikkei also voiced its approval on this, stating: “It is important that they confirmed that applying pressure takes precedence over dialogue.”


In contrast, Asahi Shimbun threw out the caveat that, “Pressure is a means to realize dialogue. Japan and the U.S. need to persevere in diplomatic efforts to achieve dialogue.”


While conceding that Japan should naturally support the U.S.’s efforts to apply pressure, Mainichi Shimbun said that what was more worrying was the heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea as a result of U.S. military pressure.


Abe touched on the procurement of advanced U.S. weapons at this joint news conference with Trump. He talked about the “qualitative and quantitative reinforcement of Japan’s defense capabilities.”


Sankei urged the government to take action on this, asserting that, “It is important to implement the announced policy steadily.”


Yomiuri made the following demand with regard to the purchase of expensive weapons: “[The government] should procure them at reasonable prices in order to obtain the people’s understanding.”


Asahi was critical of this move. It argued that Trump’s asking Japan to purchase weapons was “improper” because he “linked urgent security issues with trade deals.”


Tokyo Shimbun demanded that Abe deal with this matter cautiously, arguing that, “He must realize that reckless strengthening of defense capabilities may destabilize the region.”


The Japan-U.S. summit agreed on a strategy for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” with China’s maritime advances by force in mind.


Sankei wrote: “While it is very unusual for the U.S. to go along with a strategy Japan has been promoting, this will be effective in preventing the building of a China-led regional order.”


Yomiuri noted that this will “contribute to restraining China’s efforts to build military footholds in the South China Sea.”


Nikkei also voiced support, asking the government to “also involve India, Australia, and other countries in order to develop this into a more robust framework.”


Here, Asahi again expressed a dissenting view. It called for efforts to prevent the new framework to be taken as a rival to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” asserting that, “Applying pressure blatantly on China is undesirable for cooperation between Japan and the U.S. and China in dealing with North Korea.”


Likewise, Mainichi talked about “the need to take care not to provoke China unnecessarily.”


After his visits to Japan and the ROK, Trump also visited China, which holds the key in the North Korea issue, for a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping. All newspapers expressed disappointment in their editorials.


Sankei took issue with Xi’s pressure on North Korea being limited to strict implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, criticizing China’s behavior to be “far short of that of a responsible major power.”


Yomiuri also voiced “regret,” pointing out sternly that “Xi did not show any remorse for China’s being the hotbed of evasion of sanctions.”


Mainichi cited Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo’s death in prison, decrying Trump’s failure to expound on the importance of respect for human rights, asserting that, “Pointing out the other party’s shortcomings candidly is also the responsibility of a superpower that has been the world leader.”


While Trump’s visit to the ROK attracted less attention than his visits to Japan and China, the Moon Jae-in administration’s unscrupulous behavior stood out. A former comfort woman was invited to the reception for Trump, where shrimp from Takeshima (in Shimane Prefecture), known as Dokdo in South Korea, was served.


Sankei commented: “Was this something he must do at this time (when it is important to cooperate in the North Korea issue)? This was a most foolish act.”


Yomiuri took the ROK to task for its “utter thoughtlessness.”


Mainichi and Nikkei also voiced their criticism.


North Korea is probably the only one that was delighted by what the ROK did.

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