National / Politics

Stronger Japan-U.S. alliance hinges on Trump's 'awareness,' Abe says

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wants to keep strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance with the incoming administration of Donald Trump, provided the two leaders share an awareness of the security situation in Asia.

In an exclusive interview with Kyodo News, Abe said Tuesday he wants to “affirm the significance of the Japan-U.S. alliance” in his next meeting with Trump, who will be inaugurated as the U.S. president Jan. 20.

“That’s based on the premise that (both of us) have a mutual understanding of the current security environment,” he added.

That environment includes the nuclear and missile development threat from North Korea and China’s military expansion.

Abe and Trump met at his New York residence shortly after the presidential election in November but divulged little about the content of their meeting.

While Trump’s awareness of the security environment might warrant confirmation, his core values need not be questioned, Abe indicated.

“The United States is the very (country) that has flown the flag of freedom, democracy and the rule of law … this needs no confirmation,” he said.

The Japanese government often stresses the importance of the rule of law in its repeated cautions against China’s expansionist activities in the East and South China seas.

On trade, Abe indicated he will advocate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact in further meetings with Trump despite the latter’s promise to pull the United States out of the deal as soon as he takes office.

“I want to make an appeal about how profitable (the TPP would be for both countries),” Abe said.

The TPP, signed by Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim nations in February last year, is effectively doomed without U.S. participation under its current terms.

While Abe has overseen Japan’s effective ratification of the free trade pact, Trump has stuck to his criticisms of it, saying the United States should instead pursue bilateral deals.

More broadly, Abe expressed his intention to bring an era of Japanese post-World War II diplomacy to a close and chart a new course of future-oriented diplomacy.

“Japan has been afraid of showing its vision,” Abe said. “We should tell our vision to the world, with leadership. I will fulfill the responsibility that goes along with that.”

Abe could remain in power for much of Trump’s first term, barring a rare change of government or a coup in the Liberal Democratic Party, if the LDP approves in March a proposed rule change extending its leaders’ term limits.

Abe doubled down on statements he has made since the start of the year that he is not considering dissolving the Lower House for a snap election any time soon, saying his “head is 100 percent occupied” with thoughts of enacting budgets.

The next ordinary Diet session will convene Jan. 20. Abe is scheduled to give a policy speech to open the session, just as Trump will likely be putting the final touches on his inauguration speech due later that day.

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