NEW YORK – Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe is set to become the first foreign leader to meet US President-elect Donald Trump, since the Nov 8 election.
The Thursday’s meeting in New York comes amid concern over the foreign policy direction of Tokyo’s biggest ally, the BBC reported.
The Japanese prime minister is stopping in New York on his way to an Asia-Pacific trade summit in Peru. But details of Thursday’s meeting are unclear, with a Japanese official saying exactly where it will happen has not been firmed up.
It also remains unclear who else might be at the meeting with Abe.
PM Abe said he wanted to “build trust” and “work together for prosperity and world peace”, before leaving for his trip.
Donald Trump has said Japan needs to pay more to maintain US troops on its soil. He also condemned a major trade deal struck by President Obama with Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.
The US and Japan have been key allies since the end of World War Two, when the US helped Japan rebuild its economy.
Reports in international media suggest Abe wants to find out how serious Trump was during his campaign when he repeatedly criticized Japan on trade issues and for not paying more of the cost of its own defense.
And since the Japanese establishment was expecting Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, Abe wants to assure Trump that he is willing and eager to work with him.
Moreover, the prime minister is concerned about Mr. Trump’s commitment to protecting Japan. The United States is Japan’s most important ally, and is legally obligated to defend it against attack. There are around 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan, a powerful deterrent against the rising threat of North Korea, and an increasingly assertive China.
During the campaign, President-elect Trump suggested he might withdraw American troops.
Trump, who was elected by popular vote last week, has yet to select his new cabinet and other positions. He has denied that the transition to the White House is in a disarray.
Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence have spoken with 29 world leaders since the election, according to a statement from the transition team.
US-Japan security alliance
Donald Trump has suggested the US could pull troops out if Japan does not start paying more for them. Tokyo currently spends $1.7bn (£1.3bn) on their support, including the costs of running US bases, which are unpopular with many in Okinawa where most are located.
The president-elect also stunned Japan on the campaign trail by floating the idea that it and South Korea might be better off acquiring nuclear weapons to protect themselves against North Korea.
Japan, the only country to have had nuclear weapons used against it, has a pacifist constitution and is resolutely opposed to arming itself with nuclear weapons.
Trump accuses China of engaging in the biggest “theft” of US jobs in history, by exploiting “terrible” trade deals he will renegotiate or rip up. For Japanese leader, the main concern is likely to be Beijing’s increasingly aggressive tone towards territory Japan controls but which China also claims.
Japan is an export-led economy, heavily dependent on trade. It needs the US to stay open to its products and to back trade deals that keep other countries open to them too.
Trump has expressed concerns about Japanese imports and has promised to ditch the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, even though many saw it as a way to contain China, which is working on a rival deal.