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The Trumps in Japan

After easing into his Asian debut with golf and a taste of home, President Donald Trump is trying to put a human face on North Korea's menace, hearing from anguished families of Japanese citizens snatched by Pyongyang's agents.

Trump's meeting Monday promises to elevate these heart-wrenching tales of loss to the international stage as he hopes to pressure North Korea to end its provocative behaviour toward American allies in the region.

North Korea has acknowledged apprehending 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, but claims all those captives have died or been released. But in Japan, where grieving relatives of the abducted have become a symbol of heartbreak on the scale of American POW families, the government insists nearly 50 people were taken — and believes some may be alive.

Trump has delivered harsh denunciations of the renegade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, belittling him as "Little Rocket Man" and threatening to rain "fire and fury" on his country if the belligerence continues. But Trump also has begun highlighting the plight of the North Koreans.

"I think they're great people. They're industrious. They're warm, much warmer than the world really knows or understands," Trump told reporters on Air Force One while flying to Japan on Sunday. "And I hope it all works out for everybody."

Also on the agenda during Trump's second day in Asia: an audience with Emperor Akihito, a sit-down with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a state dinner.

North Korea is the critical issue looming over Trump's 12-day, five-country trip that will include direct talks with Trump's Chinese and Russian counterparts.

In Washington, a new analysis emerged from the Pentagon saying that a ground invasion of North Korea is the only way to locate and destroy, with complete certainty, all components of Kim's nuclear weapons program.

"It is the most bleak assessment," said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Two members of the U.S. Congress, in a letter to the Pentagon, had asked about casualty assessments in a possible conflict with North Korea. A rear admiral on the Joint Staff responded on behalf of the Defence Department, and said the amount of casualties would differ depending on the advance warning and the ability of U.S. and South Korea forces to counter North Korean attacks.

Feinstein said she was pleased that America's top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, was on the Asia trip. "I think if he will stay the course and use diplomacy the way diplomacy can be used, that it might be possible to work something out. The worst alternative is a war, which could become nuclear," she said.

Abe welcomed Trump on Sunday with an effusive display of friendship that will now give way to high-stakes diplomacy. The two leaders, who have struck up an unlikely but easy rapport, shared a casual lunch and played nine holes at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, joined by professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama. 



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