President Donald Trump kicked off his Asia tour on Sunday by addressing a crowd of American and Japanese military personnel at Yokota Air Base in Japan.  The president made no mention of the North Korean elephant in the room, but did make a number of pointed references regarding dictators and regimes that could easily be perceived as remarks intended for North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un. The president told the crowd,

Together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities. No one — no dictator, no regime, and no nation — should underestimate, ever, American resolve. Every once in a while, in the past, they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them, was it? It was not pleasant.”

The president delivered a well-balanced speech, offering congratulations and respect not only to the American military presence in Japan, but to their Japanese counterparts, saying the Americans are “fortunate to stand alongside such strong and capable allies.”

On behalf of the American people, I want each and every one of you, both American and Japanese, to know that your service and commitment helps keep us all safe, strong, and free… American airmen and the Marines and Japanese Self-Defense Forces that are standing here with us today, side-by-side, confident, committed, and more capable than ever. You instill confidence in the hearts of our allies, and you strike fear in the hearts of our enemies. It’s the way it should be, isn’t it?”

Although Trump did not mention North Korea by name, the threat of war with the reclusive state has loomed over the heads of military personal stationed in Japan and the Japanese civilians alike.  Two of North Korea’s ballistic missile tests have traveled on a course that took them directly above portions of the Japanese mainland, which, in conjunction with frequent threats of preemptive nuclear strikes levied by the North Korean regime, have left many in the nation fearful that aggressive rhetoric between states will transition to open war.

Although the president has indicated in the past that he believes diplomacy with Kim’s regime may be a lost cause, his statements at the onset of his Indo-Pacific tour indicated a preference for peace over armed conflict.

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With your presence here today, shoulder-to-shoulder, you put hope into every soul that yearns for peace. All of you have made Yokota one of the most capable operational bases in Japan and, actually, anywhere in the world… For almost 60 years, the military alliance we see on this base has endured — a cornerstone of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for our nations, this region, and indeed the entire world. Today, we pay tribute to that legacy — a legacy you protect and grow each and every day.”

However, despite touting a legacy of peace, the President did make it clear that America and its military allies in the Pacific are a formidable force to any potential opponent, tempering his optimism with a stern warning:

We will never yield, never waver, and never falter in defense of our people, our freedom, and our great American flag.  That flag stands for the values of our Republic, the history of our people, the sacrifice of our heroes, and our loyalty to the nation we love.

“Like your predecessors, you — our brave warriors — are the last bulwark against threats to the dreams of people in America and Japan, and all across the world.  You are the greatest hope for people who desire to live in freedom and harmony, and you are the greatest threat to tyrants and dictators who seek to prey on the innocent.”

Image courtesy of the Department of Defense.