Just as President Trump begins his twelve-day trip across Asia, it became clear that the President has no concept of Asian culture, and his perception of Japan in particular is based on offensive stereotypes.
A report in the Japan Times says that, according to diplomatic sources, President Trump said that Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country earlier this year.
Besides the obvious “speak before you think” nature of this statement – the President made it even worse, by saying, according to the Times article, “he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles.”
His suggestion was first of all, both impractical and inappropriate. To suggest that a foreign power take military action against another foreign power in such an off-the-cuff manner is not very diplomatic, and even if Japan wanted to take such an action, the altitude and speed of the missiles would have made it nearly impossible for Japan to destroy them in flight. And, if Japan had taken such an action, they would have faced inevitable retaliation. Suggesting that Japan do such a thing was reckless.
But the biggest PR disaster of this statement was President Trump referring to Japan as a “country of samurai warriors,” which would be seen as offensive to most, or at best, an inaccurate cultural stereotype. First of all, President Trump clearly does not understand what “Samurai” means. The Samurai were a noble class, not all of which were warriors, and who were guided by a strict code of honor. The Samurai caste emerged in the twelfth century and lasted until the 1800s, and there have been no Samurai in Japan for quite some time. It goes without saying that Japan is a modern industrial nation with strong economic and diplomatic ties to the West. Once again, the President is speaking without a filter, and comments like that are what may cause serious harm to relationships that his predecessors spent decades building.