President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are in Tokyo this Memorial Day weekend as the first foreign dignitaries to be welcomed by new Japanese Emperor Naruhito.
But never one to waste too much valuable time on pleasantries, Trump quickly shifted the course of the visit away from formalities and toward discussions of trade deals. In the process, the president sparked a touch of controversy for encouraging the Asian island nation to build up its military with U.S.-produced defense equipment.
Trump talks trade
The U.K. Daily Mail reported that trade talks were not on the agenda for this particular trip to Japan, but Trump upended that plan right off the bat by hosting a dinner with Japanese business leaders first thing upon his arrival.
The president noted over the weekend the trade imbalance advantage Japan holds over the U.S.
Trump seeks to make things “a little bit more fair,” primarily by encouraging more Japanese investment in the strong and growing U.S. economy — including through Japanese purchases of U.S. military equipment, like fighter jets and missiles.
“We also have a tremendous relationship on the military, and Japan is ordering a great deal of military equipment. We make the best equipment in the world,” Trump said. “And so, Japan is doing very large orders, and we appreciate that. And we think it’s probably appropriate right now, with everything that’s going on. The world is changing.”
A touchy subject
President Trump didn’t get into the details about what was “going on” or “changing” in the world right now that made the Japanese purchase of U.S. military equipment “appropriate,” but it isn’t difficult to imagine that he was
Still, his talk of a Japanese military build-up was controversial to some people, given Japan’s prior history of brutal conquest and imperial militaristic expansionism.
In the wake of their defeat in World War II, the new Japanese Constitution specifically prohibits the re-militarization of the empire, though it does allow for a strong self-defense force to protect the island nation from attacks.
Trump is scheduled to join Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the visit to inspect the nation’s second-largest warship, a helicopter carrier called the JS Kaga that will soon also carry U.S.-made F-35B strike fighters. That ship is named after the famed Japanese Kaga aircraft carrier that was sunk in the 1942 Battle of Midway.
This visit to Japan was initially intended to be little more than a friendly visit between allies, but President Trump never really stops working, so he single-handedly transformed the visit into a necessary discussion on rectifying a trade imbalance.
One way to do that is through Japan’s purchase of U.S. military equipment that will help that nation defend itself against potential aggression from