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Trump Arrives In Japan


President Trump is in Japan for a state visit that will be heavy on symbolism, including meetings with Japan's new emperor and the Japanese prime minister, Abe. Both countries look to celebrate the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance but want to avoid some of the thornier issues that challenge their relationship. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe is in Tokyo with the president and joins us now.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And aside from sumo wrestling, which we've heard a lot about, or include that, what's on the agenda?

RASCOE: Well, so the Japanese asked Trump to visit this month because they wanted him to be the first state guest to meet with Emperor Naruhito, who ascended to the throne this month. Trump and first lady Melania Trump will have a special meeting with the emperor on Monday, and later, there will be a formal banquet where Trump will be the guest of honor. So Japan really wants to show that it's the United States' best friend in the region. And this is important because Japan is dealing with China, on the one hand, trying to assert its dominance and North Korea on the other being confrontational. Prime Minister Abe has really invested a lot into developing a personal relationship with Trump, and in many ways, this trip will be an extension of that. As you mentioned, there will be a sumo wrestling competition that Trump will attend where the winner will get a U.S.-made trophy.

SIMON: Any formal agreements expected to come out of this visit?

RASCOE: Right now, there's not much expected in the way of substantive policy. There will be some trade talk. Trump's first stop of the trip was a meeting with Japanese business leaders, and he talked about wanting a bilateral trade deal with Japan. Here's more from him on that.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say that Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years. But that's OK. Maybe that's why you like us so much. But we'll get it a little bit more fair, I think. I think we'll do that.

RASCOE: So Trump is making clear that he feels like the U.S. has been losing. But overall, his comments about Japan and their investments in the U.S. were positive, especially for Trump, who is very critical about trade. There will be a bilateral meeting with Trump and Abe, and they are expected to hold a press conference after their talks. But no one's looking for a fully formed trade deal to come out of this weekend. Trump was supposed to decide whether to put tariffs on cars from Japan this month, but he put that decision off for another six months to kind of allow the negotiations to go forward. By putting off that decision, Trump took some of the pressure off of this meeting.

SIMON: Are Trump and Abe in accord on North Korea?

RASCOE: Trump and Abe, they will want to send a message that they're totally united on this issue. In many ways, Japan has been pleased with Trump's handling of North Korea. They appreciated the maximum pressure campaign. But Abe will be urging Trump to kind of keep up the pressure on Kim Jong Un about the return of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s. This is a huge issue in Japan, and Abe has made it a top priority. Trump has brought this issue up during talks with Kim, but Abe wants to make sure that this doesn't fall to the wayside as Trump pursues a nuclear deal.

SIMON: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe with President Trump in Tokyo. Thanks so much for being with us.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.