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As Trump’s popularity continues to rise, his Japan-bashing continues to baffle

by

Kyodo

Japanese government officials are faced with a challenging question: when to begin the work of clearing up misunderstandings caused by U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks about bilateral relations?

On the campaign trail seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination Trump criticized Japan, along with China and Mexico, saying Tokyo has deliberately lowered the yen’s value against the dollar, making American products less competitive and hurting U.S. employment.

Bringing jobs back from Japan and other countries has become his signature phrase to please the crowds. The 69-year-old billionaire businessman also claims the 1960 bilateral security treaty is unfair as it only obliges the United States to defend Japan.

“We have a trade deficit with China of $500 billion a year. We have a trade deficit with Japan of over $100 billion a year,” Trump told a press conference after winning in three primaries Tuesday. He blasted Japan for buying “practically nothing” from the United States.

Trump said Japanese construction machinery manufacturer Komatsu Ltd. threatens its American competitor, Caterpillar Inc., thanks to what he called Japanese currency manipulation.

Some senior Japanese government officials and Washington-based experts on bilateral relations said that while Tokyo recognizes Trump’s rhetoric is over the top, it is hard to identify whom to raise this with on his staff.

The U.S. goods trade deficit with Japan amounted to $69 billion and that with China stood at $366 billion in 2015, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Trump continues to be the front-runner in the presidential nomination race both in terms of support ratings in opinion polls and the number of delegates secured so far.

“I’ll refrain from commenting on him,” Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae told a recent press conference after being asked for his views, apparently out of concern that any hasty bid to correct Trump’s statements could backfire.

One of the Japanese officials said, “We don’t think now is the best time” to challenge Trump as he is not thought to have set up a full-fledged foreign policy team.

Trump’s solid popularity, in spite of his derogatory remarks about Hispanics, Muslims and others, and the growing possibility of him becoming the Republican presidential candidate in July, have been making big headlines in Japan for months.

If Trump wins the nomination, even if he does not become the next U.S. president, “it will have a negative effect” on bilateral relations between the United States and Japan, James Schoff, a Washington-based expert, said.

“There will be a little bit less trust, less confidence by Japan in America writ large,” said Schoff, senior associate of the Asia Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

In early March a group of Republican security experts, including former Cabinet members, released an open letter criticizing Trump’s remarks on foreign policy, saying, “We are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency.”

“His insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II,” they said. The undersigned included former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

Japan earmarked ¥189.9 billion to host U.S. military bases in Japan in the current fiscal year through March 31.

Trump also criticized a sweeping free trade deal President Barack Obama’s administration signed with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.

Approval by the U.S. Congress is necessary for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to take effect, but Trump and other candidates such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who leads the Democratic nomination race, are critical of the initiative.

“Every month that goes by I think it gets harder and harder,” Schoff said, referring to passage of the TPP through the legislature, given Trump’s growing sway over the Republican Party, which normally has been supportive of free trade.

“That would have a long-term impact on … America’s reputation in the region and on that issue going forward,” Schoff said.

  • Jim Fujii

    It is Sanders and not Clinton among the Democratic candidates, who has consistently opposed the TPP. So why mention Clinton, as if Sanders doesn’t exist?

  • Jim Fujii

    It is Sanders and not Clinton among the Democratic candidates, who has consistently opposed the TPP. So why mention Clinton, as if Sanders doesn’t exist?

  • tisho

    Actually everything he says about Japan is accurate, his solutions are inaccurate, but he correctly points out the problems, most of the time.

  • zer0_0zor0

    America, the home of built-in obsolescence…frump the mogul’s mouth.

    Trump and Obama have a lot in common; they are both duplicitous poseurs.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Trump may be a foul individual. But everything he has said about Japan is true.

  • Steve Jackman

    Trump is absolutely correct in his criticism of Japan. Japan helps its exports by devaluing the value of the Yen, whose value has plummeted by more than forty percent against the US Dollar. Japan also engages in systematic unfair business practices at home to protect its domestic market from foreign competition. This is clear from the dozens of American companies which have been forced to leave Japan or severely downsize their operations here due to Japanese regulators unfairly targeting them.

    There is also the issue of poor and unfair treatment of American citizens living in Japan, where they are routinely denied basic civil and human rights in almost all areas, including employment, housing, education, and access to businesses, etc. On top of all of this, Japan has been getting a free ride by having the U.S. spend tens of Billions of dollars on defending Japan. The money Japan saves from this is then redirected into the private sector to help Japanese corporations beat American companies in trade. The whole U.S. Japan alliance is a terrible deal foe America and Trump is correct to challenge the status quo.

  • Dimi Gronnings

    Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders receives no mention in this piece, why?

  • GBR48

    Abenomics has involved currency manipulation to boost exports – Clinton has raised the issue too.

    Objections to the TPP by both sides in the nomination races are interesting, as you would expect both Republicans and Clinton to be pro-TPP. Anti-TPP campaigners are usually from the political left (like Sanders).

    Complaints about Japan getting a discounted defence package from the US armed forces suggest that Trump would wish to pull the US back from global intervention. He has already suggested that he would prefer to allow North Korea to be dealt with by China. This, and his attitude to Abenomics, suggests that he is primarily viewing Japan as a trading competitor rather than a geographically useful ally. Whilst most US politicians would see a US military presence in a country like Japan as geopolitically beneficial, Trump wants to increase the fees for defence as a service industry. He is, after all, a business man, not a politician, so no surprise that he values the bottom line over political influence.

    A Trump presidency would presumably see Tokyo and Seoul getting a large bill for ‘protection’.

  • http://godfather.wikia.com/wiki/Michael_Corleone The Don Michael Corleone

    And why do I have a feeling that Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party secretly want Trump to win? I don’t know why but it is just a gut feeling. The Japan Times seems to like him a lot.

  • Marius Kraamwinkel

    Maybe Trump has forgotten that the US made Japan abolish its army after WWII. Abe wants Japan to assume a more mature military role and still be an ally.

  • Steve Jackman

    Karri Anderson, you claim to have run your own business in Japan, so I’m surprised that you don’t know the answers to your own questions since this information is common knowledge for anyone involved with business in Japan. What was the name of your business, years it operated in Japan, the type of your business, number of employees and annual revenues?

  • philnolan3d

    I think, and hope for all of our sake, that his popularity will drop off when it comes to election time. More than half of America can’t be that dumb.