Ahead of President Donald Trump's first tour of Asia, amid a growing North Korea threat, The White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster spoke to NHK Washington Bureau and shared his thoughts about the president’s trip.
During his stay in Japan, Trump is scheduled to meet families of Japanese abducted by North Korea. McMaster said, "You cannot imagine the loss of a child."
He said Trump will help pull the curtain back on what kind of regime North Korea is.
He said the president will ask the world, "Do you want a regime like this to have nuclear weapons?"
He also said Trump is going to strengthen US resolve to work together with its ally -- Japan, and assure the Japanese people that the 2 countries stand together against the threat of North Korea.
McMaster said the United States could increase military pressure to deter further provocations by North Korea.
He mentioned that the US is currently deploying 3 aircraft carriers in the Western Pacific region.
He said the first thing to do is to make sure the North Korean regime knows that any aggression on its part will be met with an overwhelming response. He added that's what the carriers symbolize.
Asked whether Washington would notify Tokyo if the North would not give up its nuclear and missile programs and the US decided to take the military option, McMaster said his country keeps open and transparent relations with its allies.
He stressed that there is close communication between Japan and the US at all levels.
He suggested that information sharing will be maintained in case of an emergency. He said the 2 countries completely agree on how to assess security threats by the North and others, and how to respond to the threats to protect people.
The following is the full interview with Gen.H.R. McMaster
Q: Thank you very much General, and we welcome the president's first trip to Japan.
MCMASTER: Thank you. Thank you. President Trump is really looking forward to his trip to Japan, and it's something he's been looking forward to from the very beginning of his presidency when he first hosted Prime Minister Abe, and they had a wonderful time in Mar-a-Lago, and he's looking forward to visiting Abe now in Japan.
Q: So during this visit to Japan, what does the president want to achieve?
MCMASTER: Well, he wants to promote security and prosperity for the American and the Japanese people. And of course, you know, we have one big obstacle to security right now, and that's the North Korean regime and the threat that that regime poses with nuclear weapons and missiles, and I know Japan is very much aware of that. And so the President is going to do a couple of things about that. He's going to strengthen our resolve to work together with our great ally Japan, to work with a broader range of countries, including, obviously, South Korea which is under grave threat, but all countries in the region and globally have to really come together to confront this threat. But then the President will also-he'll also affirm our commitment to our great Japanese allies and assure the Japanese people that we stand together against this threat.
Q: General, the president is going to meet the families of abductees. What message is he going to bring?
MCMASTER: Well first, he's going to bring a message of sympathy, of empathy for those families. You can't imagine the loss of a child. But then also he's going to, I think, help pull the curtain back on what kind of regime this is, and to ask the world, I mean, "Do you want a regime like this to have nuclear weapons?"
Q: Let me go to a question about North Korea. This is very important. You said, "all options are on the table." And you have just said-the president and you, General, said, "We are running out of time."
Q: So how are you going to resolve this issue-this difficult issue?
MCMASTER: Well, we have a strategy that we've worked on together, right? With our allies and partners, but broadly with others, China and others, we have asked them to do everything they can to make sure we don't have to use military force. But the President's been very clear that if necessary, he will keep that military option on the table and if necessary he's prepared to use military force. But what we want to do is isolate the North Korean regime diplomatically, economically, and convince-through the enforcement of UN sanctions, but other actions beyond that-to convince that regime that they are less safe with nuclear weapons and they really have no other option but to denuclearize.
Q: We have seen 3 US aircraft carriers in the region, and you have F-35s at the Kadena Air Base. How close are we to military action against North Korea?
MCMASTER: Well, what we have to do first of all is to make sure the North Korean regime knows that any aggression on its part will be met with overwhelming response. And so that's what these carriers symbolize, that's what our forces that have been stationed in the region for so long symbolize. And what we've seen is through our strong alliance, we have been able to prevent great power conflict for over 70 years, right? After the bloodiest, most horrible war in human history, we have helped to create, working together, an environment of relative peace and security. Now North Korea threatens that. We're determined not to give that up. We owe our children a peaceful environment to live in, secure environment to live in, and we create that environment so we can build prosperity. Prosperity for the Japanese people, and the American people, and all people across what we're advocating for, which is a free, secure, and open Indo-Pacific region.
Q: General, you mentioned earlier in the briefing you are "going to see" in the next few months. Does that mean that you are going to wait another few months, 2 or 3 months, and then decide about military action against North Korea?
MCMASTER: No, what I'm just saying is that in assessing the degree to which we are successful in galvanizing other nations to do everything they can to isolate the regime, to apply pressure to the regime, to ensure that the leadership there concludes that it has to denuclearize, we need some time for that to work. And we ought to look very carefully at what more we can do in the meantime, and then assess the effect that our actions are having.
Q: Once you decide to go into military action, will you notify Japan, us?
MCMASTER: With our allies all the time, we have a very open, transparent relationship, and we're working together, as I think all Japanese people know, at many levels. Our military leaders are great friends, trusted allies. And then at the political level as well, we are continuously in coordination with each other. And of course, you know the very strong, close relationship that President Trump has with Abe. I mean, they're just a phone call away at any moment, they speak frequently. And we are completely aligned with each other in terms of our assessment of security threats, including – especially, maybe - North Korea, but then what we can do together to address those threats and secure our citizens.
Q: The president said, "It is not the time for dialogue." But if the US enters into dialogue, what conditions do you have for the dialogue between the US and North Korea?
MCMASTER: Well, you know, the President is not one to lay out these things in great detail, but it has to be a dialogue that starts under conditions that are much, much different from past negotiations. And so what we can't afford to do is enter into these long, drawn out negotiations that allow North Korea to use those negotiations as a cover for continuing their nuclear and missile programs.