WASHINGTON - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s planned meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a reflection of his emphasis on Japan, a member of his transition team said Wednesday.
The meeting scheduled in New York on Thursday “shows Mr. Trump’s commitment to the relationship” with Japan, Rep. Devin Nunes told reporters after speaking with Katsuyuki Kawai, a special adviser to Abe.
The Republican from California said the meeting with Abe has been set at a time when Trump, who won the presidential election on Nov. 8, is “very, very busy trying to put together his Cabinet and the people who are going to support him.
“I’m very excited about Prime Minister Abe meeting President-elect Donald Trump tomorrow. It should be a very insightful meeting,” Nunes said.
“And I know that President-elect Trump’s team is excited to meet with the prime minister. I think he’s going to be very, very interested in all the issues dealing in the Asia region. And of course, one of our most important, longest allies in Japan.”
During the election campaign, Trump questioned Washington’s commitment to the long-standing Japan-U.S. security alliance, and threatened to pull U.S. troops out of Japan and other ally nations in Asia unless they pay more for hosting them.
Nunes was co-founder and co-chair of the U.S.-Japan Caucus, a bipartisan group of more than 80 members of Congress working to strengthen bilateral relations.
Abe will be the first world leader to meet with Trump since the election. Abe is expected to underscore the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance to ensure the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, in the face of the nuclear missile threat posed by North Korea and growing Chinese assertiveness.
“I feel greatly honored to be able to meet (Trump) ahead of (other) world leaders,” Abe told reporters shortly before departing Tokyo’s Haneda airport. “I want us to tell each other about our dreams for the future.”
Calling the Japan-U.S. alliance “the fulcrum of Japan’s diplomacy and security,” Abe said a true alliance is possible only through trust, and that he wants to build such a relationship with Trump.
A Japanese government source said the Abe-Trump meeting is being arranged at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where the president-elect lives and works.
Abe plans to argue that the cost of hosting the U.S. military in Japan should be shared “appropriately,” as strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance is mutually beneficial both in security and economic terms.
Abe is also likely to discuss free trade with Trump in the hope that his incoming administration will change its stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“I want us to share a recognition of the significance of the TPP and (the need to) move forward with domestic procedures (to ratify it),” Abe said shortly before departing Japan.
Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said in the Diet Thursday that Trump’s reversals of tone on Japan indicated he was “to put it kindly, flexible; or to put it unkindly, ignorant” about the alliance.
Meanwhile, Japanese and U.S. officials said on Wednesday the U.S. State Department had not been involved in planning the meeting, leaving the logistical and protocol details that normally would be settled far in advance pending.
“There has been a lot of confusion,” said one Japanese official.
The meeting was only agreed to last week and Trump and his advisers have been busy in meetings at his headquarters in recent days to allocate jobs in the new administration.
While world leaders sometimes hold loosely planned bilateral meetings at regional summits, it is unusual for foreign leaders to hold high-level diplomatic talks in the U.S. without detailed planning.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that to his knowledge, Trump’s transition team had not been in contact with the department either to discuss the transition of government or to seek information ahead of his meetings with foreign leaders.