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Expert’s view on Japan-U.S. summit: Kyoto Univ. professor

Hiroshi Nakanishi, professor at Kyoto University’s graduate school


Q: What is your assessment of the significance of the recent Japan-U.S. summit meeting?


Nakanishi: Japan and the U.S. wanted to take the initiative in sending out political and economic messages. In particular, the summit produced results in playing up the Japan-U.S. solidarity in dealing with North Korea. No in-depth remarks were made on the military option, but they may have talked about specifics while they played golf and met for summit talks. The risk of a military clash between the U.S and North Korea still lingers.


Q: President Trump met with the families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.  What was his aim?


Nakanishi: By meeting with the families of the abductees, he emphasized North Korea’s inhumanity and sent a powerful message to the general public about it. He feels that understanding the abduction issue, which the Abe government places a great deal of importance on, and rendering support based on this will help benefit the Japan-U.S. relationship.


Q: Japan shared with the U.S. the principle of realizing a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region.  


Nakanishi: The U.S. is pursuing a vision to challenge China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. It is also trying to differentiate itself from the Obama administration. In these respects, the proposal may have been easy for President Trump to agree on.  The details will need to be fleshed out later on.


Q: In trade there is still a rift between Japan and the U.S.


Nakanishi: At the beginning of the meeting, Prime Minister Abe brought up the North Korean issue whereas President Trump referred to the U.S. trade deficit with Japan. Though there was a sharp contrast between the two leaders, it appears that the details will likely be discussed within the framework of the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue. However, President Trump is looking to produce results in trade negotiations with Japan before the U.S. midterm election, which is scheduled to take place next year. On the trade front, the U.S. may apply strong pressure on Japan.


Q: What is your overall assessment of the summit while the U.S. is in the midst of the “Russiagate” scandal?


Nakanishi: The issue will linger as long as the Trump administration is in power, so we can’t just sit back and wait. But in dealing with this administration, Japan should keep in mind that it is difficult to predict the domestic political situation there and the impact that it will have.  

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