Trump is using North Korea to peddle pricey US weapons in Asia and at home

Deals to seal.
Deals to seal.
Image: Reuters/Toru Hanai
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For US defense contractors, Donald Trump might be looking like a salesman-in-chief right about now. In the space of two days, Trump has urged the leaders of Japan and South Korea, as well as the US Congress, to spend heavily on the expensive systems offered by the likes of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing’s defense division—all in the name of defending against North Korea.

Yesterday while in Japan, the first stop in a trip through Asia, Trump held a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, whom he urged to buy US military equipment as protection against North Korea. Doing so, he noted, would also create American jobs and help address the US’s trade deficit with Japan, the second-highest behind only China.

“One of the things I think is very important is the prime minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should,” he said. “It’s a lot of jobs for us and a lot of safety for Japan.” Trump mentioned F-35 fighter jets, missiles, and missile-defense systems.

Abe, for his part, seemed open to the idea, and indeed Japan has ordered such items from the US before. Like Trump, he takes a hard-line position on North Korea, which helped him emerge victorious from a recent snap election in Japan.

Also yesterday, Trump asked US lawmakers for an additional $4 billion to spend on missile defense to counter the North Korea threat.

“This request supports additional efforts to detect, defeat, and defend against any North Korean use of ballistic missiles against the United States, its deployed forces, allies, or partners,” he wrote in a letter to Congress. Trump had originally requested $9.9 billion for missile defense for the year ending Sept. 30, 2018.

Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives Armed Services Committees said they welcomed the request.

Today, Trump traveled to South Korea. In a press conference, he said that South Korea had agreed to order “billions of dollars” of military equipment, and drew the connection again to jobs for Americans.

Trump also boasted about the quality of US military gear while in both countries. “We make the greatest military equipment in the world,” he said in Japan. “There’s nothing close.”