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Trump opens Asia trip talking tough in campaign-style rally

By New York Times
President Donald Trump addresses U.S. troops at Yokota Air Base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Nov. 5, 2017. (Doug Mills/The New York Times) XNYT4

TOKYO — President Donald Trump began his second day in Japan by pushing for stronger, more equitable economic ties between the allies while addressing the tragic church shooting in Texas.

Early today, Trump called the Texas church shooting that claimed at least 26 lives Sunday "an act of evil," denounced the violence in "a place of sacred worship" and pledged the full support of the federal government. He said that in a time of grief, "Americans will do what we do best: we pull together and join hands and lock arms and through the tears and sadness we stand strong."

He then shifted back to his message to a group of American and Japanese business leaders: The United States was open for business, but he wanted to reshape the nations’ trade relationship.

"For the last many decades, Japan has been winning" the trade relationship, Trump said. "The U.S. has suffered massive trade deficits with Japan for many years."

He rebuked the current relationship, saying the trade deals were "not fair and not open." Trump downplayed the potentially contentious nature of the negotiations, though the Japanese government has not shown much appetite for striking a new bilateral trade agreement. Tokyo had pushed to preserve the Trans- Pacific Partnership, which Trump has abandoned.

"We’ll have to negotiate that out and it’ll be a very friendly negotiation," Trump said, suggesting it would be done "quickly" and "easily."

Later Monday, Trump will highlight the specter of North Korea and try to put a human face on its menace, hearing from anguished families of Japanese citizens snatched by Pyongyang’s agents. The meeting, the White House hopes, will elevate these heart-wrenching tales of loss to the international stage as he hopes to pressure North Korea to end its provocative behavior toward American allies in the region.

Trump has delivered harsh denunciations of the renegade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, belittling him as "Little Rocket Man" and threatening to rain "fire and fury" on his country if the belligerence continues. But Trump also has begun highlighting the plight of the North Koreans.

Also on the agenda during Trump’s second day in Asia: an audience with Emperor Akihito, a sit-down with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a state dinner.

North Korea is the critical issue looming over Trump’s 12-day, five-country trip that will include direct talks with Trump’s Chinese and Russian counterparts.

In Washington, a new analysis emerged from the Pentagon saying that a ground invasion of North Korea is the only way to locate and destroy, with complete certainty, all components of Kim’s nuclear weapons program.

"It is the most bleak assessment," said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Two members of the U.S. Congress, in a letter to the Pentagon, had asked about casualty assessments in a possible conflict with North Korea. A rear admiral on the Joint Staff responded on behalf of the Defense Department, and said the amount of casualties would differ depending on the advance warning and the ability of U.S. and South Korea forces to counter North Korean attacks.