• Kyodo

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has denied suggesting that countries such as Japan and South Korea should go nuclear, while an aide to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Washington on Monday to prepare for a meeting Thursday between Trump and Abe in New York.

Referring to a New York Times article published Sunday, Trump tweeted the same day that the paper said he “believes ‘more countries should acquire nuclear weapons.’ How dishonest are they. I never said this!”

In March, The New York Times reported that the then-Republican presidential candidate said in an interview that he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenals.

If the United States keeps on “its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway, with or without me discussing it,” Trump was quoted as saying.

The comment was taken to indicate that he would tolerate Tokyo and Seoul building their own atomic weapons rather than depending on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for defense against North Korea and China.

On Monday in Washington, Katsuyuki Kawai, a special adviser to Abe, met with William Studeman, a former director of the National Security Agency who is believed to have close ties to Trump.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Kawai said he conveyed Abe’s willingness to “swiftly build the highest level of relationship of personal trust with the president-elect.”

“There will be no leaders in the world who the president-elect can count on as much as Prime Minister Abe,” he said.

Kawai, however, said he did not talk with Studeman about specific issues, including Trump’s demand that Japan increase its share of the costs for stationing U.S. troops in the country and his pledge to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a yet-to-be ratified free trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim countries.

Kawai said he was arranging talks with senior members of Trump’s transition team during his three-day stay in Washington through Wednesday before joining Abe in New York for Thursday’s meeting with Trump.

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