The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2019
BACKGROUND PRESS CALL
BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
ON THE VISIT OF PRESIDENT TRUMP AND
FIRST LADY TRUMP TO JAPAN
2:31 P.M. EDT
PRESS OFFICER: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm happy you all could join. We have with us today [senior administration official]. He'll be providing some brief remarks about the President's upcoming trip to Japan and a few Q&A afterwards. This will be on background and you can attribute what he says to a senior administration official.
The time is going to be extremely limited, so we ask that you limit the questions to the trip itself. And we'll take as many of those as we can in the time that’s allotted for us.
If there's any questions or concerns following, or, you know, follow up or anything like this, I think most of you would have our contact at NSC press. Please reach out to me or to that distribution and we'll take care of that.
With that, I'll turn to my colleague for a few opening remarks and then we'll do the Q&A.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thanks. And thanks for dialing in this afternoon, everybody. So the President and the First Lady will be traveling to Japan this Saturday, May 25th, and returning to the U.S. on Tuesday, May 28th.
As Japan's first state guests following the enthronement of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito on the first of May, this visit by the President comes really at a historic moment in Japan and it demonstrates that the alliance between the United States and Japan has never been stronger.
The alliance serves as the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States' and Japan's shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific serves as the foundation for a global partnership that strengthens security, prosperity, and a rules-based order around the world.
After his arrival on Saturday night, the President is going to meet informally with Prime Minister Abe on Sunday, and also join him that day in watching a sumo wrestling match.
On Monday, the President will have a state call on Their Majesties, the Emperor and Empress, followed by bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Abe and his team.
That evening, the Imperial Family will host the President and the First Lady at a state banquet.
The President and the First Lady will bid farewell to Their Majesties in the morning, on Tuesday, and then they will proceed -- the President will proceed to the Yokosuka U.S. Naval Base where he will honor our troops for Memorial Day.
So, with that, I'd be happy to entertain some questions.
Q Hi, this is Steve Herman, Voice of America. I'm wondering if we're going to have any deliverables on trade or on defense issues as a result of this visit.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, Steve, thanks for that. In terms of deliverables, there'll be some things coming out over the course of the visit. The President and Prime Minister Abe will likely hold a joint press conference where they'll have some very interesting announcements covering, really, the range of the relationship. Thanks.
Q Hi, this is Katie Rogers with The New York Times. I'm wondering if you can go into the Tuesday visit to the base at all. Is the President expected to tour any vessels or look at any equipment? I'm just kind of wondering what he is going to say in terms of security there and the alliance there, and what he'll actually be doing at the base.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Yeah. You know, he's going to have a chance to see the base, see one of our warships. He'll have the chance to address troops, to talk about Memorial Day, but also really to talk about the strength of the Japan alliance, to talk about the importance of the alliance in deterring aggression in the region, and also to highlight the regional but also global nature of the partnership between Japan and the U.S.
So we'll have more details in coming days on the exact schedule there.
Q Thanks again for doing the call. I wanted to follow up on the more cultural aspect. You said that they'll have an informal activity on Sunday. We're all assuming that's golf. But if you could confirm.
And secondly, he's supposed to attend, as you mentioned, the sumo match, but there are some reports that that's now in question because of security. So I was wondering if you could also speak to that and confirm that the sumo is on.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, thanks for the question. The full detailed schedule will come out a little bit later when we get closer to the day.
But the sumo event is very much on. I am not aware of the reports that you mentioned. This is what's called the Spring Basho Sumo Tournament. It's a major sumo tournament. The President will have the opportunity to see some of the matches together with the Prime Minister. Thanks.
Q Hi, this is Jeff Mason with Reuters. Two follow-ups. One, can you say anything more about what's expected to come in terms of trade? Will there will be an agreement this weekend, which had been reported at one point?
And secondly, regarding the sumo, can you give us any color about the Trump Cup and what the President plans to bring to that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I missed the last part of your question you said about sumo. Could you repeat that?
Q The first question was about trade. Do you expect to have an agreement? And the second one was about what he's bringing to the sumo wrestling match.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. Okay. You know, on trade, our trade and investment relations with Japan have, really, never been stronger. And the President intends to promote bilateral, free, and fair trade. It's something he's been doing consistently in his meetings with the Japanese.
I don't think that the purpose of this trip is to focus on trade. It's really to be state guests of Their Majesties. And that's really the heart of the visit. It's a celebration of their new roles and this new era that's been kicked off -- the Reiwa era -- and a chance to celebrate the alliance.
And I don't have any details for you on other aspects of the sumo match at the moment.
Q Hey, this is Ashley Parker from The Washington Post. It sounds like this trip, as you've described it, and what we've heard from others, is sort of more ceremonial than substantive and policy oriented. So considering the President is heading back to Japan for the G20 in just about a month, can you sort of explain the White House and the President's thinking behind why he accepted this trip and what he hopes to get out of it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. I don't want to give the impression that it won't be substantive. It's going to cover quite a broad range of topics in the relationship. There will be some substantive things to announce. So there will be ceremony but there will also be substance in this visit.
And remember, this is the second time that President Trump has met with Prime Minister Abe in the space of a month. He'll be visiting again, as you mentioned -- he'll be going to Osaka, for the G20, in late June.
So three visits in both directions in a short amount of time is really emblematic of just how close the relationship is. I mean, President Trump and Prime Minister Abe have met or spoken more than 40 times since President Trump was elected. That is absolutely unprecedented in terms of just of the frequency and substance of all of their interactions.
Prime Minister Abe, you'll remember, he was the first world leader to meet with President Trump. And now President Trump is going to be the first world leader to meet with the new emperor. So they'll have plenty of substance to discuss and some things to announce as well.
END 2:41 P.M. EDT