Aso cancels U.S. visit, informal economic talks with Vice President Pence

Kyodo

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said Friday he has canceled his planned U.S. visit to hold an informal meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, citing the need to deal with heightening tensions over North Korea.

“The decision was made as I was told (by the prime minister) to stay in Japan for thorough crisis management given the current security environment,” Aso told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Aso’s visit from Monday could have coincided with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Russia from Wednesday to attend an economic forum and hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on its fringes. Foreign Minister Taro Kono is expected to accompany Abe.

The development came after Aso, who also serves as finance minister, said earlier this week that he would visit the United States to lay the groundwork for the second round of a bilateral economic dialogue expected in October.

Aso was expected to hold talks with Pence on Tuesday, while meeting individually with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, during his visit.

Japan has already notified the United States of its decision, and the two countries will continue to prepare for the second round of the economic dialogue, the deputy prime minister said.

Tokyo and Washington launched the economic dialogue in April to discuss economic, trade and investment issues. Aso has said Tokyo’s imposition in August of emergency tariffs on frozen beef imports from the United States and other countries may be discussed under the bilateral framework.

Trade has become a sensitive issue since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. Trump, favoring bilateral rather than multilateral trade deals, has taken issue with his country’s massive trade deficits with major exporters such as China and Japan.