With Trump abruptly setting aside campaign pledges to force Tokyo to pay more for U.S. defense aid, a new chapter in U.S.-Japan relations was opened up with a hug and a handshake between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
During a day of talks at the White House and a flight together aboard Air Force One to Florida for a weekend of golf, the two leaders appeared to have established a quick friendship.
Harsh campaign rhetoric that accused Japan of taking advantage of U.S. security aid and stealing American jobs were avoided by Trump at a joint news conference with Abe.
In the face of challenges such as China’s maritime expansion and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, it was a welcome affirmation for Japan.
“We are committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control and to further strengthening our very crucial alliance,” Trump said. “The bond between our two nations and the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep. This administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer,” he added.
The U.S. commitment to defend Japan through nuclear and conventional military capabilities is unwavering, A joint U.S.-Japanese statement said.
Abe had come to the U.S. to send a message that the decades-old alliance is unshakable and to develop a sense of trust and friendship with the new U.S. president and the statement amounted to a victory for Abe.
For its dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea that China also claims, Japan got continued U.S. backing. The islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, are covered by Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, the two leaders affirmed, the statement said.
Trump accepted Abe’s invitation for a visit to Japan this year.
But after Trump abruptly pulled the United States out of the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, trade still poses uncertainty between the relationships between the two countries.
He was “fully aware” of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the multilateral trade accord, Abe said. A new framework for economic dialogue was agreed upon by Japan and the United States, he said.
“I am quite optimistic that … good results will be seen from the dialogue,” he said. A fair, common set of rules for trade in the region is what Japan was looking for, he added.
Abe and Trump did not discuss currency issues and that Trump did not request a bilateral trade deal, said a senior Japanese government spokesman.
To address fiscal and monetary policies as well as infrastructure projects and trade, a U.S.-Japan economic dialogue will be led by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence, the official told reporters.
Trump gave no hint as to how his approach would differ from that of his predecessor, Barack Obama but said that he considered dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program a “very very high priority”, after he spoke by phone on Thursday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(Adapted from CNBC)