KYODO – In telephone talks Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts in the midterm elections in which the U.S. leader’s Republican Party retained a majority in the Senate, according to Japan’s top government spokesman.
Trump expressed appreciation for Abe’s message and said he will continue to work together with the him, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.
Tuesday’s elections delivered a divided Congress after the Democratic Party regained a majority in the House of Representatives.
“Frequent exchanges between the leaders, including this phone conversation, demonstrate the firm Japan-U.S. alliance,” the spokesman said.
During the 10-minute call, the two leaders did not take up other issues such as trade or North Korea, Suga said.
Looking forward, Trump proposed holding telephone talks whenever necessary, according to a Japanese government source.
Touching on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s two-day trip to Japan from Monday, when Pence is scheduled to meet with Abe, Trump sought cooperation from Japan, the source said.
During Pence’s visit, the Japanese government is hoping to strengthen the Japan-U.S. partnership on North Korea’s denuclearization and confirm the two countries’ commitment to settling the issue of past abductions of Japanese nationals by the North in the 1970s and 1980s.
Pence will visit Japan for talks with Abe next week, ahead of Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related meetings in Singapore and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea that he will attend on behalf of Trump.
At a news conference held a day after the midterm elections, Trump called Abe “one of the people I’m closest with,” but criticized Japan’s trade surplus with the United States.
“I tell him all the time that Japan doesn’t treat the United States fairly on trade,” said Trump, adding, “They send in millions of cars at a very low tax. They don’t take our cars.”
The U.S. administration is expected to push Japan for increased market access for automobiles and farm products when the two governments start negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement, possibly in mid-January.
Japan is hoping to seek an amicable settlement of the trade issue by leveraging the strong ties between the two leaders.
Meanwhile, Trump said the United States is “in no rush” over denuclearization negotiations with North Korea in comments hours after the cancelation of a meeting scheduled for Thursday in New York between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Pyongyang counterpart, Kim Yong Chol.
The president said Washington will not lift sanctions unless Pyongyang takes the necessary measures to end its nuclear and ballistic missile program.