Trump Insulted Everyone in Japan, a U.S. Ally Against North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump at the White House, Washington, D.C., on June 12. Trump once told Howard Stern that the only thing he liked about the Japanese was "custom bowing." Alex Wong/Getty

Turns out, President Donald Trump has a long history of blasting the U.S.'s most important allies in Asia. During a previously unreleased interview with Howard Stern in 1997 obtained by Newsweek this week, Trump unabashedly derided nearly everything about Japan, which is currently working with the Trump White House to deter North Korea's increasingly aggressive nuclear threats.

The remarks were included in a trove of 15 hours of previously unreleased interviews Trump gave The Howard Stern Show from 1993 to 2015 that were obtained by Newsweek and archived by During the 1997 interview, the radio host asked Trump about his views on Japan. "You said the Japanese custom bowing to one another is nice," Stern said, to which Trump added, "The only thing I like about the Japanese, and to be honest."

Bowing is part of Japan's norms of greetings and etiquette. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the bower shows "appreciation and respect" to the person being bowed to, and is normally accompanied by greetings such as "ohayo gozaimasu" (good morning), or "konnichi wa" (hello, good afternoon.) Bows can be casual, very polite or used for business interactions.

In the same interview, Trump later added that he had "a great relationship with the Japanese." When Stern added that Trump "had to do business with [the Japanese]," Trump said that "they owe me lots of money and I take them back some."

North Korea's recent weapons tests have fueled mounting tension in the Asia-Pacific region, especially after one missile flew over Japan's Hokkaido island in August. Among its many threats, North Korea has vowed in recent months to sink Japan and turn the United States into ashes.

North Korea's nuclear program led Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to "bond" with Trump during a trip to the president's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, early this year, CNBC reported, while Japanese political leaders have sought to strengthen relationships with Trump's advisors in recent weeks.

Trump has bashed Japan at other times. On April 25, 2014, Trump tweeted, "We allow Japan to sell us millions of cars with zero import tax and we can't make a trade deal with them. Our country is in big trouble!"

On April 22, 2015, Trump tweeted that the Trans-Pacific Alliance trade deal would only benefit Japan.

Trump jolted the international community in early 2016 when he said that allies could develop a nuclear program to defend themselves instead of relying on U.S. help. "Japan is better if it protects itself against this maniac of North Korea," Trump said at the time.

Once he assumed office, Trump's rhetoric toward Japan slightly began to change. During his campaign, he said he loved Japan and that "we're going to have a great relationship with Japan," according to CNN Money. On December 6, 2016, he praised Japan's SoftBank, "Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs…" even though it was not clear how this pledge would have come to fruition.

Most recently, Trump wrote in a tweet on September 5, "I will allow Japan & South Korea to buy substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States."