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Abe making plans for February summit if Clinton wins

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may visit the United States for a summit in late February if Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton wins next week’s presidential race, Japan-U.S. diplomatic and party sources said Thursday.

The meeting just a month or so after the new president takes office would be aimed at confirming Tokyo and Washington are on the same page regarding the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and of coordinating policies toward China, Russia and North Korea, the sources said.

Japan has been siding with the U.S. against China in the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been building military outposts to strengthen its claims.

While keeping in step with the United States and other Group of Seven nations in imposing sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, Abe is keen to promote economic cooperation in the Russian Far East in the hope of making progress in negotiations on a separate territorial dispute with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If Republican nominee Donald Trump wins, Tokyo is likely to be cautious about arranging summit talks before determining his true stance toward Japan. Trump has said Japan should drastically the money it contributes toward maintaining U.S. forces in the country.

Tokyo has already conveyed to Clinton’s campaign team that Abe intends to visit soon for summit talks if she is sworn in on Jan. 20, the sources said.

Abe met with Clinton in September, when he visited New York to attend U.N. meetings, at the request of the Democratic candidate.

Clinton, who is in a tight race with Trump, chose to visit Japan for her first official overseas trip in February 2009 as secretary of state under President Barack Obama.

The last Japan-U.S. summit took place in May, when Abe and Obama met on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Mie Prefecture.