“Tariffs tie so much of Trump together, ” said Jennifer M. Miller, an assistant history professor at Dartmouth College who last year published a study of how Japan’s rise has affected the president’s worldview. “His obsession with winning, which he thinks tariffs will allow him to do. His obsession with appearing tough. His obsession with making certain parts of national border fixed. And his obsession with executive power.”…

He took out a newspaper advertisement in 1987 to warn that “for decades, Japan and others have been taking advantage of the United States” by not paying America for its assistance in their national defense. He complained about Japanese trading practices in an interview that year with Larry King, and in 1988 with Oprah Winfrey.

“If you ever go to Japan right now, and try and sell something, forget about it, Oprah. Just forget about it,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “They come over here, they sell their cars, their VCRs, they knock the hell out of our companies.”