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PM Abe felt good response from Trump in building trust relations

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have felt a good response from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at their first meeting held at Trump’s residence in New York on the evening of Nov. 17 (JST on the morning of Nov. 18). The focus will be on whether Abe, taking this opportunity, will be able to build a relationship of trust with Trump, and whether he will be able to use it remains to be seen.


“Unlike my impression that I had from TV images during the election campaign, he was a good listener,” Abe told his staff about Trump over dinner after the meeting. Trump invited Abe to his residential floor in Trump Tower in Manhattan. The meeting lasted for one and a half hours, 45 minutes longer than originally scheduled. After the meeting, Trump reportedly escorted Abe down to the first floor to see him off.


There are still issues, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and host nation support for U.S. forces in Japan, over which Trump made negative remarks during the election campaign. Since the TPP is a centerpiece policy of the Abe administration’s growth strategy, the Japanese government has not given up its effectuation. The administration intends to gradually persuade Trump to change his mind about the TPP in its wait-and-see tactic. Abe told the press after the meeting, “I explained my basic ideas.” But it seems that Abe and Trump did not have an in-depth conversation, according to an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).


Before the meeting, Abe sent Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Katsuyuki Kawai to the U.S. and Kawai met with the transition team. Kawai gave a report on Trump to Abe prior to the meeting, In the report, Kawai cited the “election,” “family,” and “golf” as Trump’s favorite topics.


Some were cautious about the idea of meeting with the president-elect, reasoning that “it’s rude to President Obama.”  Despite such an argument, Abe made up his mind to meet with Trump, based on his judgment that trust between the leaders could be a breakthrough to resolve a number of issues in store. Abe reportedly made an appointment with Trump for the meeting during their talks on the telephone. “On November 17, wherever you are in the United States, I will be there,” Abe told Trump.


A MOFA official said, “The next meeting (which is likely to take place in February next year) will be the key to predicting the future course of Japan-U.S. relations.”


Issues expected between Japan and the U.S. after the Inauguration of the Trump Administration


Trump’s Past Remarks

Japanese Government’s Stance

Host nation support for U.S. forces in Japan

He called for Japan to increase the amount of money, saying: “We defend Japan but they don’t pay (enough) money.”

Japan shoulders comparatively more stationing costs than other U.S. allies. Increasing the amount further is unacceptable.

Japan-U.S. Security Treaty

He indicated a review of the treaty, saying: “Even if the U.S. comes under attack, they (Japan) don’t have to do anything.”

Peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region benefits the U.S. A fair balance of obligations  is maintained between the two countries.

Japan’s option of going nuclear

During the presidential election campaign, Trump said he would accept Japan’s arming itself with nuclear weapons. After winning the election, he denied the remark.

Japan’s three non-nuclear principles do not allow the country to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Japan will actively make efforts to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

The Senkaku Islands issue

He avoided making a comment, saying: “I don’t want to say what to do (if and when the Senkakus are occupied by China).”

The Senkaku Islands come under Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty that stipulates the U.S.’s obligation to defend Japan.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

Trump has persistently insisted on nonparticipation in the TPP, claiming that the TPP will place the U.S. under foreign governments’ control.

Even if Japan is asked by the U.S. to renegotiate the treaty or make concessions, Japan will not comply.


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