October 24, 2017 6:29 am JST

Trump, Abe to focus on alliance, North Korea, Indo-Pacific: US

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- U.S. President Donald Trump will affirm a robust alliance with Japan, vow to apply "maximum pressure" on North Korea and underscore the importance of promoting "a free and open Indo-Pacific region," when he meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next month in Tokyo, a senior White House official said Monday.

During a three-day visit to Japan starting Nov. 5, Trump will focus on ways for the two allies to "work together to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region," the official said, apparently taking aim at China's assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas, as well as Beijing's increased military presence in the Indian Ocean.

Trump will also "affirm the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of regional peace and security," the official said, amid heightened tensions over the rising nuclear and missile threat posed by North Korea.

The official said all countries in the region -- including China, the main economic lifeline of North Korea that accounts for about 90 percent of its external trade -- "have to do quite a bit more to bring maximum pressure to bear on North Korea."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he briefed journalists about Trump's five-nation Asian tour, his first trip to the region since taking office in January.

Trump will speak to U.S. forces and Japan's Self-Defense Forces at the U.S. Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of Tokyo, according to the official.

Aside from a bilateral summit, Abe, who scored a resounding victory in Sunday's general election, will also host a meeting between Trump and the families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

Japan officially lists 17 citizens as abduction victims and suspects North Korea's involvement in many more disappearances. While five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002, Pyongyang maintains that eight have died and the other four never entered the country.

Abe and Trump are planning to play golf, together with Japanese professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama, at a course outside Tokyo on the afternoon of Nov. 5, according to Japanese officials.

In his 12-day trip to Asia plus Hawaii, which will begin in the U.S. state in the Pacific on Nov. 3, Trump will underscore his commitment to long-standing U.S. alliances and partnerships and reaffirm U.S. leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, the White House official said.

During a trip to South Korea from Nov. 7 to 8, Trump will have a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae In, visit American and South Korean service members and address the National Assembly.

In a speech to the assembly on Nov. 8, Trump will hail the "enduring alliance" between Washington and Seoul and "call on the international community to join together in maximizing pressure on North Korea" to compel it to alter its provocative behavior.

The official indicated Trump is unlikely to visit the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily-fortified border separating the two Koreas, because Moon invited his U.S. counterpart to visit Camp Humphreys, a newly expanded U.S. military base about 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

"The president is most likely going to be visiting Camp Humphreys. It will be very difficult for him to have time to visit both, but details are still being worked out," the official said.

During a trip to China from Nov. 8 to 10, the U.S. leader will push Chinese President Xi Jinping to "follow through" on U.N. sanctions against North Korea and exert more pressure on its defiant neighbor.

As part of an effort to reduce the massive U.S. trade deficit with China, Trump will demand that Beijing provide "fair and reciprocal" treatment to American companies and cease "predatory" trade, investment and intellectual property practices.

On Nov. 10, the U.S. leader will travel to Danang, Vietnam, for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and "underscore the important role Asia plays in advancing U.S. economic prosperity" in a speech he will deliver at an APEC business summit.

After meeting with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi on Nov. 11, Trump will visit the Philippines the following day for summit meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Trump will attend a U.S.-ASEAN summit and bilateral talks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila on Nov. 13.

Trump's participation in ASEAN events will advance U.S. leadership in promoting Indo-Pacific trade and security architecture that is based on freedom, openness and adherence to the rule of law, according to the White House official.

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