Just hours before U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Japan—where North Korea's development of nuclear weapons is expected to be a central topic of discussion—the Japan Times reported that in recent talks with Asian leaders, Trump has openly suggested that "Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year."
According to diplomatic sources, the Japan Times notes that Trump "said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles," despite the potentially devastating geopolitical consequences of doing so.
The Times continues:
North Korea test-launched ballistic missiles on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15 that flew over Hokkaido before falling into the Pacific Ocean.
However, the Self-Defense Forces did not try to intercept the missiles, with the government saying the SDF had monitored the rockets from launch and judged they would not land on Japanese territory.
But the altitude and speed of the missiles would have made it very difficult to destroy them in flight, while failure would have been embarrassing for Japan and encouraging to North Korea.
Upon arriving in Japan on Sunday, Trump continued ratcheting up the militaristic rhetoric that has sparked fears of a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and North Korea.
Speaking to U.S. troops at the Yokota Air Base shortly after touching down, Trump said: "We dominate the sky. We dominate the sea. We dominate the land and space. Not merely because we have the best equipment, which we do, and by the way, a lot of it's coming in. You saw that budget."
"No one, no dictator, no regime, and no nation should underestimate ever American resolve," Trump continued. "Every once in a while in the past they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them. Was it? It was not pleasant."
Commentators immediately reacted with alarm to reports that Trump questioned Japan's decision not to shoot down North Korea's ballistic missiles, viewing them as a sign of what is to come on his five-country Asia tour.
Good lord. Trump “could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down [N. Korea’s] missiles.” https://t.co/ZzR6sKfbt3— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) November 5, 2017