Japan's Abe to meet with Trump as scandals swirl at home

Frederick Owens
April 17, 2018

Meanwhile, in two critical areas, Japan is uncomfortable with the positions adopted by the Trump administration. "Obviously, the president has got a great relationship there, and it's going to be centred primarily on preparation for talks with North Korea as well as a lot of trade discussion is expected to come up".

On North Korea, the two countries have drifted apart since the last time Trump and Abe met.

Japan wants Trump to avoid a deal in which Pyongyang gives up ballistic missiles that can hit the USA mainland but keeps shorter-range missiles that threaten Japan.

Adding insult to injury, later the same month, Japan was the only major American ally not promised an exemption from Trump's hefty new tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum.

"[That] is unacceptable to Japan, would be unacceptable to Australia and would be unacceptable to South Korea".

Japanese officials said Abe and Trump might also discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership, after Trump indicated last week that the USA might be interested in rejoining what is now an 11-country trade agreement.

Once again, the golf course beckons.

The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Taro Aso, the finance minister and deputy prime minister, resisted calls to resign over the admission, a move that would have been politically fatal for Abe, analysts said. The surprise announcement that Trump will meet with the North Korean leader was a bit of a body blow to the Abe cabinet.

His Chinese counterpart Wang Yi said China hopes to "deepen" the dialogue with Japan on economic cooperation.

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Japan also made requests of China regarding steel overproduction, Kono said, However, he denied an earlier report from Kyodo News that China had asked for Japan's help on US steel tariffs, which have been imposed on both Japan and China. Trump will probably fulfil this request. In this regard, many in Japan wonder whether Tokyo can fully rely on America's security guarantees, whether America would continue to keep its "nuclear umbrella" over Japan and whether Japan would have to react independently to the North Korean nuclear threat, for example, by creating its own nuclear missile potential. On the following day, the US Treasury Department put Japan on a watch list of states with "unfair currency practices" and criticized the continuing large US trade deficit with Japan.

The Abe government is also in a spot of bother over the allegations against Junichi Fukuda, the country's vice finance minister, that he had been sexually harassing women reporters often.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the regional trade deal Trump pulled out of a year ago, would have helped lower those barriers for American farmers.

So far, Japan has reacted cautiously to this statement, as it could eventually require further concessions on quotas and tariffs.

And for the Japanese people, the possibility that they could no longer rely on the protective umbrella of US military power may be the most unsettling development in their postwar history.

The two Asian neighbours are targets of USA steel and aluminium tariffs, while Beijing is also facing stiff tariffs on US$150 billion (S$196.6b) worth of goods and services.

Trump, however, sees a link between tariffs and trade agreements. That said, alarmist moods are expressed in Japan, in particular by the well-known political scientist Watanabe, that Pyongyang, making steps towards Seoul and Washington, but ignoring Tokyo, aims to damage the tripartite relations of the United States, South Korea and Japan.

He tweeted Friday that the United States is "working to make a deal" with Japan, which he said "has hit us hard on trade for years".

The negotiations involved in re-entering TPP could extend beyond Trump's first term, according to the report.

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