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Abe: ‘I have full confidence’ in Trump

By Hiroyuki Nishimura, Nikkei deputy editor


NEW YORK — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his confidence after meeting U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 17 in New York, becoming the first major world leader to do so since the election.


Abe likely stressed the importance of the U.S.-Japan security treaty and the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, a trade pact among the U.S., Japan and 10 other countries but opposed by the incoming president during the presidential campaign.


“We spent a substantial amount of time together and had a very candid discussion, and the atmosphere of the meeting was very cordial,” Abe told reporters after the meeting. “I conveyed my basic thoughts on various issues.”


Abe refrained from providing details of their conversation because Trump has not taken office yet and the meeting was unofficial.

The U.S. president-elect said in a Facebook post after the meeting: “It was a pleasure to have Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stop by my home and begin a great friendship.”


The meeting, held at the real estate titan’s signature Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, started around 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and lasted for just over an hour.


Abe said he agreed with the president-elect to meet again at a convenient time to have a deeper conversation regarding various issues.


When asked whether Trump gave reassurance about maintaining the long-standing security pact between the U.S. and Japan, Abe said, “I will not go into specifics, but I do think that without confidence between two nations, alliances will never function. And with the outcome of today’s discussion, I am convinced that Mr. Trump is a leader with whom I can have full confidence.”


A pre-inauguration visit of this kind is unusual for the Japanese prime minister and signals the concerns Abe and his government have about the uncertainty surrounding the coming presidency.


During the presidential campaign, Trump advocated for re-examining the security treaties with Japan and other allies.


For example, Trump said in December 2015: “If somebody attacks Japan, we have to immediately go and start World War III, OK? If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us. Somehow, that doesn’t sound so fair.”


He made similar remarks regarding the U.S. security treaty with South Korea.


Such rhetoric caused anxiety throughout Asia amid an increasingly fluid regional security situation due to China’s growing economic and military clout.


Abe made a stop in New York on his way to Peru, where the annual summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Community will be held.


There, China will likely push for the TPP’s rival framework, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a pact comprising China, India, Japan and 10 Southeast Asian nations but not the U.S.


Earlier in the week, Abe warned that if the TPP founders, “There would certainly be a pivot to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”


The TPP cannot come into force without ratification by the U.S. At this time, it appears highly unlikely that the U.S. Congress will ratify the treaty.


On China, an Abe aide said before the meeting with Trump that the prime minister would try to capitalize on the incoming president’s hard-line stance toward the country.

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