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Trump says Japan could shoot N.Korean missiles "out of sky" if it bought US weaponry

[TOKYO] US President Donald Trump said on Monday that Japan would shoot North Korean missiles "out of the sky" if it bought the US weaponry needed for doing so, suggesting Tokyo take a stance it has avoided until now.

North Korea is pursuing nuclear weapons and missile programmes 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 the "era of strategic patience" with North Korea was over, and said the two countries were working to counter the "dangerous aggressions".

Mr Trump also pressed Japan to lower its trade deficit with the United States and buy more US military hardware.

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"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 Abe, for his part, said Tokyo would shoot down missiles "if necessary".

Mr Trump was replying to a question that was posed to Mr Abe - namely how he would respond to a quote from Trump from a recent interview in which he said Japan was a "samurai" nation and should have shot down the North Korean missiles.

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 programmes and trade.

"Most importantly, we're working to counter the dangerous aggressions of the regime in North Korea," Trump said, calling Pyongyang's nuclear tests and recent launches of ballistic missiles over Japan "a threat to the civilized world and to international peace and stability".

"Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong. But look what's happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years.

Look where we are right now," he added.

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 Trump has bonded through multiple summits and phone calls, repeated at the same news conference that Japan backed Mr Trump's stance that "all options" are on the table, saying it was time to exert maximum pressure on North Korea and the two countries were "100 per cent" together on the issue.

REUTERS

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