U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to make a stop in Japan in early November — his first visit since he was inaugurated — during a planned trip to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a senior government official in Tokyo said Wednesday.
However, whether Trump will come to Japan before or after the APEC meeting in Vietnam, which is scheduled for Nov. 10 and 11, has not yet been decided, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Still, during a news conference the same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who would not officially confirm plans for the visit, told reporters that no specific date has been set for such a stopover, even though Abe and Trump agreed in February that the U.S. president will travel to Japan by the end of this year.
“We are still talking to decide a specific date,” Suga said.
Still, the Asahi Shimbun reported earlier Wednesday that Trump is likely to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan sometime between Nov. 4 and 6.
Meanwhile, the Japanese official who spoke on condition of anonymity added the U.S. president plans to visit other countries as well during his first diplomatic trip to Asia.
According to media reports, China is one of those stops, where he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is not immediately known whether Trump will visit South Korea as well, Kyodo News reported.
North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and bilateral economic trade issues are likely to be top items on the agenda during the U.S. president’s stops in Japan and China.
The U.S., Japan and their allies have long called on Beijing to strengthen economic sanctions against North Korea, in particular, implementing an embargo on oil exports to the country. On the economic front, Trump has pledged drastic cuts in the U.S.’s trade deficits with Japan, China and other countries.
U.S. officials in the past have suggested Washington will seek to get Tokyo to open up more of the Japanese auto and agricultural markets to U.S. firms. However, the U.S. has yet to make specific demands during diplomatic talks with Japan as far as trade issues are concerned.
Diplomats and experts say this is partly because the Trump administration has yet to fill many key senior positions that deal with trade and Asian affairs.
For his part, Abe has successfully built up a close personal relationship with Trump, particularly as it pertains to dealing with the North Korean military threat. Abe was also the very first foreign leader to meet with the new U.S. president after his inauguration in January.
Since their first face-to-face meeting, Abe and Trump have held three summit meetings and 12 teleconferences, mostly discussing how the U.S. and Japan should respond to the North Korean crisis.
Abe and Trump are also expected to hold a bilateral meeting next week when Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono visit New York to attend the annual General Assembly of the United Nations.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday that Trump, Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are also considering holding a trilateral meeting in New York.
On Monday the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted the toughest-ever sanctions slapped on the North, including capping oil exports to the hermit state and banning its textile exports to other countries.
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, officially accounting for about 90 percent of its trade.
Still, successfully stopping Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile ambitions will depend on whether Beijing strictly implements those U.N.-mandated sanctions.