UPDATE : 2019.7.20 SAT 07:21
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Trump embarks on Asia trip as N. Korea tensions mount

U.S. President Donald Trump embarked on his first trip to Asia Friday as tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons took front and center.

He expressed optimism about the unusually long overseas trip as he boarded Marine One for Joint Base Andrews, from where he departed for Hawaii.

"I think we're going to have great success," he told reporters. "We'll be talking about trade. We'll be talking about, obviously, North Korea."

This EPA file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

Trump is scheduled to visit five countries after stopping in Hawaii: Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

He hinted that the North Korea issue will occupy a large portion of his meetings with leaders there.

"We'll be enlisting the help of a lot of people and countries and we'll see what happens," he said. "But I think we're going to have a very successful trip. There is a lot of good will."

Trump also announced that he will be extending his originally 12-day trip by a day to participate in the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

A day earlier, the U.S. Air Force flew two bombers near the Korean Peninsula in a show of force designed to deter Pyongyang from conducting further nuclear and missile tests.

That came the same day South Korea's state spy agency raised the possibility of such provocations, citing "active movement" of vehicles around a missile research facility in Pyongyang.

Tensions have run high since the regime in July launched two long-range missiles potentially capable of reaching the American mainland and in September carried out its largest nuclear detonation to date.

Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said military options against North Korea will be on the table when Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Tuesday.

"It would be irresponsible not to talk about the potential for military efforts within the alliance," he told reporters from the five Asian nations in an interview at the White House Thursday.

But he also said diplomacy is Washington's "main effort now," and the discussion will also be about "what more can we do, what more can all countries do to resolve this short of war."

Trade will be another focus of Trump's trip, according to the White House, as the administration seeks to close trade deficits with South Korea, Japan and China.

Kim Sua  edt@koreapost.com

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