Trump bids Japanese emperor farewell, tours US navy base

Sebastian Smith, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 28 2019 10:14 AM

Trump bids Japanese emperor farewell, tours US navy base 1
US President Donald Trump is greeted by Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako upon his arrival at the Imperial Palace for a state banquet in Tokyo, Japan May 27, 2019. Kazuhiro Nogi, Pool/Reuters

TOKYO -- President Donald Trump bid farewell Tuesday to Japan's Emperor Naruhito and flew to a US naval base to wrap up a symbolism-laden state visit reaffirming Washington's clout in Asia in the face of rising Chinese power.

Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, became the first world leader to meet with newly enthroned Naruhito and Empress Masako on Monday -- an honor that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said underlined the 2 countries' deep economic and strategic ties.

There has been little substance in the visit, which started Saturday and included an Abe-Trump golf game, as well as the presentation by Trump of a huge trophy at a sumo tournament.

Tricky negotiations over Washington's insistence that Japan open markets to more US products or face steep auto tariffs have been all but set aside until after elections here in July.

But more than anything, Trump's presence in Japan and his hosts' energetic efforts to please him were meant to signal that, at a time of ever greater Chinese influence and North Korean nuclear tensions, the United States remains a major Asian power.

Trump was rounding off his trip Tuesday by demonstrating the rawer side of that power with a stop at the Yokosuka US Naval Base.

He was to inspect the Japanese helicopter carrier Kaga, then address service members on the US warship Wasp.

Coinciding with the US holiday of Memorial Day, which commemorates the war dead, the naval visit will give Trump a chance to show off the American flag and underscore how one-time World War II foe Japan is part of the bedrock of the US Pacific presence.

The military alliance also has a strong commercial aspect, as Trump was eager to point out Monday when he confirmed Japan's plan to buy 105 F-35 stealth warplanes.

"This purchase would give Japan the largest F-35 fleet of any US ally," Trump said.

After leaving the USS Wasp, Trump will then depart for Washington, with a refueling stop at an air force base in Alaska.

Emperor Naruhito took over the Chrysanthemum Throne only 3 weeks ago, after his father stepped down in the first abdication in 2 centuries.

He hosted the Trumps at his palace Monday morning and then again in the evening for a banquet featuring 6 courses, including Trump's favorite -- beef -- and a dessert described as Glace Mont Fuji.

The emperor and Trump both made toasts praising their countries' friendship. The US president even sprinkled a few Japanese words into his address, referencing ancient Japanese poetry.

Trump and the first lady said goodbye to the Japanese royal couple on Tuesday before leaving Tokyo. The White House only described this as a "farewell call", and there were no immediate details on how it went.

Although the whole Japan trip was designed to be a feelgood display of US-Japanese friendship, there was an awkward moment Monday when Trump flatly contradicted Abe and some of his own advisers.

Trump insisted that he does not consider recent North Korean short-range missile tests to have violated UN resolutions, or even to pose a particular threat.

"My people think it could have been a violation... I view it as a man who perhaps wants to get attention," Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom he once more praised, calling him "very smart".