United States President Donald Trump says Japan could shoot North Korean missiles "out of the sky" if it bought the necessary US weaponry, suggesting Tokyo take a stance it has avoided until now.
- Donald Trump says Japan will purchase massive amounts of US military equipment
- US President says he wants to eliminate chronic trade imbalances with Japan
- Mr Trump is at the start of a 12-day Asian trip
North Korea is pursuing nuclear weapons and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
It has fired two missiles over Japan.
Mr Trump, speaking after a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, repeated his mantra that the "era of strategic patience" with North Korea is over, and said the two countries are working to counter the "dangerous aggressions".
Mr Trump also pressed Japan to lower its trade deficit with the US and buy more US military hardware.
"He [Abe] will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States," Mr Trump said, referring to the North Korean missiles.
"The Prime Minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should.
"And we make the best military equipment by far."
Mr Trump was replying to a question that was posed to Mr Abe — namely how he would respond to a quote from Mr Trump in a recent interview in which he said Japan was a "samurai" nation and should have shot down the North Korean missiles.
Mr Abe, for his part, said Tokyo would shoot down missiles "if necessary".
Japan's policy is that it would only shoot down a missile if it were falling on Japanese territory or if it were judged to pose an "existential threat" to Japan because it was aimed at a US target.
The US President is on the second day of a 12-day Asian trip that is focusing on North Korea's nuclear missile programs and trade.
"Most importantly, we're working to counter the dangerous aggressions of the regime in North Korea," Mr Trump said, calling Pyongyang's nuclear tests and recent launches of ballistic missiles over Japan "a threat to the civilised world and to international peace and stability".
"Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong," he added.
"But look what's happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years.
"Look where we are right now."
Time for maximum pressure on North Korea: Abe
North Korea's recent actions have raised the stakes in the most critical international challenge of Mr Trump's presidency.
The US leader, who will visit South Korea on the trip, has rattled some allies with his vow to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatens the United States and with his dismissal of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a "rocket man" on a suicide mission.
Mr Abe, with whom Mr Trump has bonded with through multiple summits and phone calls, repeated at the same news conference that Japan backed Mr Trump's stance that "all options" were on the table.
He said it was time to exert maximum pressure on North Korea and the two countries were "100 per cent" together on the issue.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying, in response to Mr Abe's comments, said that the North Korean situation was "already extremely complex, sensitive and weak".
"We hope that under the present circumstances, all sides' words and actions can help reduce tensions and re-establish mutual trust and getting the North Korean nuclear issue back on the correct track of dialogue and negotiations," she said.
On the economic front, Mr Trump said he was committed to achieving "free, fair and reciprocal" trade and wants to work with Japan on the issue.
"America is also committed to improving our economic relationship with Japan," he said.
"We seek equal and reliable access for American exports to Japan's markets in order to eliminate our chronic trade imbalances and deficits with Japan."
Earlier, speaking to Japanese and US business executives, Mr Trump praised Japan for buying US military hardware.
But he added that "many millions of cars are sold by Japan into the United States, whereas virtually no cars go from the United States into Japan".