WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will reaffirm America’s commitment to its security alliance with Japan when the nation’s prime minister visits the White House Friday, a senior U.S official said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be seeking reassurance from the new president on the U.S. role in Asia, while offering job-creating Japanese investment in the United States to shore up economic ties. Abe will be only the second foreign leader to meet with Trump since the Republican took office last month.
The official said the Trump administration is upholding the U.S. position that its defense treaty with Japan applies to East China Sea islands disputed by Japan and China — a stance opposed by Beijing. The president is expected to speak on that subject, the official said.
The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss planning for the trip before Abe arrives late Thursday. Abe is hoping to build a rapport with the former reality TV star, whom he met in New York in November, shortly after Trump’s election victory upended U.S. politics.
Their Oval Office meeting Friday will be followed by a joint press conference and a working lunch. Trump will then host Abe and his wife at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. The pair are scheduled to play golf on Saturday.
Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and campaign trail demands that allies pay more for their own defense sowed doubts in Tokyo about the new administration’s commitment to an alliance that has underpinned security in the Asia-Pacific since the end of World War II and which Abe has sought to strengthen.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis allayed many of those concerns during a trip last week to Japan and South Korea. Both countries host tens of thousands of U.S. forces — seen as a deterrent against the nuclear threat from North Korea and China’s growing assertiveness.
The economic side of the U.S.-Japan relationship is more uncertain.
One of Trump’s first actions as president was to withdraw the U.S. from a 12-nation, trans-Pacific trade agreement that was negotiated by the Obama administration and strongly supported by Tokyo.
Trump has also criticized Toyota Motor Corp. for planning to build an assembly plant in Mexico, complained Japanese don’t buy enough U.S.-made cars, and accused Japan of engineering its monetary policies to help Japanese exporters, although Tokyo denies manipulating its currency.
Japanese companies are already major employers in the U.S., and Japanese officials say they are hammering out a job-creation package of infrastructure investments to propose during Abe’s visit. Japanese media have reported key areas of investment may include building high-speed trains, joint development of robotics, artificial intelligence and space technologies and ramping up imports of U.S. natural gas in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
Abe has said that Japan may be open to a bilateral trade deal with the U.S., which is Trump’s preference, but reaching such a deal would be political difficult. Japan logged the second largest trade surplus with the U.S. last year, similar to the surpluses of Germany and Mexico, but far smaller than China’s.
The U.S. official deferred to Japan’s government on possible economic outcomes of the summit, but said Abe is well-acquainted with President Trump’s priorities when it comes to creating jobs.
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