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Trump wins big in stunning upset as Abe plays down concerns over future of U.S. alliance

AP, Kyodo, Staff Report

Donald Trump claimed his place Wednesday as America’s 45th president, an astonishing victory for the celebrity businessman and political novice who capitalized on voters’ economic anxieties, took advantage of racial tensions and overcame a string of sexual assault allegations on his way to the White House.

Trump’s triumph over Hillary Clinton, not declared until well after midnight, will end eight years of Democratic dominance of the White House. He’ll govern with Congress fully under Republican control and lead a country deeply divided by his rancorous campaign against Clinton. He faces fractures within his own party, too, given the numerous Republicans who either tepidly supported his nomination or never backed him at all.

As he claimed victory, Trump urged Americans to “come together as one united people.”

Clinton called her Republican rival to concede but did not plan to speak publicly until Wednesday morning. Trump, who spent much of the campaign urging his supporters on as they chanted “lock her up,” said the nation owed Clinton “a major debt of gratitude” for her years of public service.

The Republican blasted through Democrats’ long-standing firewall, carrying Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states that hadn’t voted for a GOP presidential candidate since the 1980s. He needed to win nearly all of the competitive battleground states, and he did just that, including Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and others.

Global stock markets and U.S. stock futures plunged, reflecting investor concern over what a Trump presidency might mean for the U.S. and world economies and trade.

A New York real estate developer who lives in a sparkling Manhattan high-rise, Trump forged a striking connection with white, working class Americans who feel left behind in a changing economy and diversifying country. He cast immigration, both from Latin America and the Middle East, as the root of the problems plaguing many Americans and tapped into fears of terrorism emanating at home and abroad.

GOP Senate candidates fended off Democratic challengers in key states, including North Carolina, Indiana and Wisconsin. Republicans also maintained their grip on the House.

Senate control means Trump will have great leeway in appointing Supreme Court justices, which could mean a shift to the right that would last for decades.

Trump has pledged to usher in sweeping changes to U.S. foreign policy, including building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and suspending immigration from countries with terrorism ties. He’s also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoken of building a better relationship with Moscow, worrying some in his own party who fear he’ll go easy on Putin’s provocations.

Putin sent him a telegram of congratulations early Wednesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also congratulated Trump on his victory, describing Japan and the United States as “unwavering allies” despite concerns of a potential rift in the two countries’ alliance.

“I look forward to working closely with President-elect Trump to further strengthen the bonds of the Japan-U.S. alliance and to together play a leadership role in ensuring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” Abe said in a statement shortly after Trump declared victory in Tuesday’s tight election.

“Japan and the United States are unwavering allies, firmly bound by the bonds of our universal values — freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law,” Abe said.

“The stability of the Asia-Pacific region, which is the driving force behind the world economy, provides the United States with peace and prosperity,” he added.

Trump’s victory over Clinton was widely viewed as presenting challenges for Japan-U.S. relations.

During his campaign, Trump painted Japan as a trade rival to the United States, called the Japan-U.S. security treaty unfair and expressed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which Abe has pushed to ratify as soon as possible.

Shortly before Trump declared victory, the Japanese government’s top spokesman said Tokyo would continue to work to bring the TPP into force. Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim nations inked the deal in February but are yet to ratify it.

“All 12 leaders (of the TPP signatories) agreed in November last year that they will aim to bring the TPP into force quickly, and Japan wants to take the lead based on that (agreement), as the global economy itself heads in the direction of protectionism,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Current U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to get the TPP ratified by the United States before his term comes to an end in January.

“There is no change to the fact that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy,” Suga added.

“(The Japanese government) has made various preparations up to today in order to be able to have a proper relationship of trust with the next U.S. president, just as before,” he said.

Government sources said Japan’s Foreign Ministry had predicted Clinton was more likely to win than Trump. And senior ministry officials were reportedly shocked by the surprise result.

But sources close to Abe said the prime minister had been considering of the possibility of Trump’s victory in recent days. Abe did not look particularly shocked or surprised as media outlets were reporting Trump was leading the race.

“Now, (people) may want a politician who says something in a decisive manner,” Abe was quoted as saying by one of the sources.

Also Wednesday, Abe officially ordered Katsuyuki Kawai, a special adviser on security issues to the prime minister, to visit the United States to meet people close to Trump.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Kawai stressed that Abe had asked him about a month ago to visit the U.S. soon after the presidential election, whoever the eventual winner was.

“First we need to build uprelations of trust between the top leaders of the two countries,” Kawai said.

Observers say the victory of Trump, who had earlier called on Japan to shoulder a large share of the financial burden for the stationing of U.S. troops in the country, would deal a hard blow to Abe’s diplomatic push.

But on Wednesday, senior government officials at the Prime Minister’s Office rushed to play down any expected negative impact from Trump’s election, emphasizing to reporters that the basic framework of the U.S.-Japan military alliance will not be affected.

“There may be some issues over specific policies, but the basic relations of the two countries won’t be changed,” a high-ranking government official insisted.

In Beijing, China said it hoped to work closely with the incoming U.S. administration to make sure that relations between the two major powers can develop steadily and contribute to world peace.

Just before Donald Trump’s victory was announced, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that China is looking forward to working with the new administration in Washington to ensure the “sound and stable development of China-U.S. relations to benefit both countries and the world.”

For China, the Unites States is its main geopolitical rival but also its biggest trading partner. Whatever policy stance Trump’s administration takes toward China, it will have a tremendous impact on world economic and political affairs.

Trump is a known China-basher, having accused Beijing of stealing millions of jobs from the United States. He has suggested he is prepared to take tough action against the world’s second-largest economy for what he calls unfair trade practices.

The Republican candidate, who won against his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton, has proposed imposing a 45 percent tariff on a broad swath of imports from China. He has also labeled the rising Asian country a currency manipulator.

Asked about Trump’s protectionist policy, Lu stressed that China’s strengthening economic ties with the U.S. have contributed to the prosperity of American people and more job creation for them, not the other way around.

Lu also said “constructive efforts” of the two major countries have helped bring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world.

Trump upended years of political convention on his way to the White House, leveling harshly personal insults against his rivals, deeming Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers, and vowing to temporarily suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. He never released his tax returns, breaking with decades of campaign tradition, and eschewed the kind of robust data and field efforts that helped Obama win two terms in the White House, relying instead on his large, free-wheeling rallies to energize supporters. His campaign was frequently in chaos, and he cycled through three campaign managers.

His final campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, touted the team’s accomplishments as the final results rolled in, writing on Twitter that “rally crowds matter” and “we expanded the map.”

Clinton spent months warning voters that Trump was unfit and unqualified to be president. But the former senator and secretary of state struggled to articulate a clear rationale for her own candidacy.

She faced persistent questions about her honesty and trustworthiness. Those troubles flared anew late in the race, when FBI Director James Comey announced a review of new emails from her tenure at the State Department. On Sunday, just two days before Election Day, Comey said there was nothing in the material to warrant criminal charges against Clinton.

Trump will inherit an anxious nation, deeply divided by economic and educational opportunities, race and culture.

Exit polls underscored the fractures: Women nationwide supported Clinton by a double-digit margin, while men were significantly more likely to back Trump. More than half of white voters backed the Republican, while nearly 9 in 10 blacks and two-thirds of Hispanics voted for the Democrat.

Doug Ratliff, a 67-year-old businessman from Richlands, Virginia, said Trump’s election was one of the happiest days of his life.

“This county has had no hope,” said Ratliff, who owns strip malls in an area badly beaten by the collapse of the coal industry. “Things will change. I know he’s not going to be perfect. But he’s got a heart. And he gives people hope.”