Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump are unlikely to issue a joint statement when they meet in Tokyo later this month, apparently to avoid exposing differing views on bilateral trade and North Korea issues, Japanese government sources said Saturday.
Joint statements are not legally binding but are treated as an important diplomatic document. The talks between Abe and Trump are being arranged for May 27 upon Trump’s visit to Japan as the first state guest to meet with Emperor Naruhito.
According to the sources, Abe and Trump are facing difficulties in striking a deal on the bilateral trade agreement launched in April, with Washington seeking to reduce the hefty U.S. trade deficit with Japan.
The longtime security allies have also found themselves on different pages when it comes to dealing with Pyongyang following its recent launch of short-range ballistic missiles. Japan protested the move as a violation of U.N. resolutions while Trump reportedly said he did not regard it as a “breach of trust” by North Korea.
Given the divide, the Japanese and U.S. governments believe the differences are great enough that a joint statement is not feasible at this time, the sources said.
When Trump’s predecessor, U.S. President Barack Obama, visited Japan in 2014 as a state guest, the two governments crafted a joint statement that touched on, among other issues, the U.S. defense commitment extending to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China claims as its territory.
Instead of issuing such a document this time, the Japanese government plans to showcase the “strong relationship of trust” between Abe and Trump through the holding of a joint news conference after their talks, the sources said. The two will also watch live sumo bouts together at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan,
A Foreign Ministry source said the government plans to explain to the public that there is no need to prepare a new statement, as the two countries issued one following the leaders’ summit in February 2017 in Washington.
Trump will visit Japan with first lady Melania Trump for four days from May 25. The Trumps are expected to meet the new emperor, who ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, and attend a state banquet to be held at the Imperial Palace.
Abe and Trump also plan to play golf and inspect the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s helicopter carrier Kaga.
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