A grumpy Trump welcomes Japan's weakened leader

17 April, 2018, 18:46 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Japan PM Abe back on the ropes as second scandal grows

As cracks in both materialize, that's where the Mar-a-Lago summit becomes important, he continued.

However, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Trump's pick for new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said while the U.S. would continue to defend Japan, the point of the Trump-Kim summit was "to address the nuclear threat to the United States".

While signing the tariff order, Trump says that Abe will have "a little smile" on his face when they talk. Trump will obviously seek a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, he will try to get the most favorable conditions for American interests - for example, high import tariffs for Japanese steel and aluminum. South Korea offers a good example here, as only a few weeks ago the government in Seoul buckled under U.S. pressure and offered to let more United States cars into the country and export less steel to the US. Foreign Minister's visit to Japan is China's first foreign minister for bilateral talks since 2009.

The two leaders are due to sit down at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on Tuesday, and the mood is expected to be vastly different from the pair's last meeting there more than a year ago. This year, he seems to be mired in a much bigger trap, of his own making.

"Abe thought he and Trump were on the same page in opposing talks and maximising pressure - until Trump pulled the rug out from under him", Professor Kingston said. That contrasts with the 50 percent approval rating he enjoyed at the time of his Tokyo summit with Trump in November, soon after leading his ruling party to a landslide election victory. Moreover, the USA president's decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without consulting Abe sparked fears of Japan being sidelined during nuclear negotiations - an alarming prospect for a country in immediate range of Pyongyang's missiles.

In other words, it "has the potential to supply these materials on a semi-infinite basis to the world", the study said.

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Japan fears that its interests may be given short shrift and Abe therefore wants to make sure Trump doesn't cut a deal with Kim that leaves Japan exposed to shorter-range missiles that do not threaten the USA mainland.

Separately, the Defense Ministry has acknowledged mishandling documents related to a former peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, and a top Finance Ministry official has been accused of sexual harassment.

Analysts expect Abe will have at least two major requests for Trump on North Korea: The first is that the president raise the issue of Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese citizens, a particularly sensitive matter in Japan. The turn in North Korea's policy, expressed by Kim's conciliatory remarks, is regarded in Tokyo as a result of the maximum pressure strategy against the DPRK, which Japan always supported.

One way the Trump administration could inflict pain on the Japanese economy is by making it harder for Japanese automakers to export cars to the United States, according to Thieliant.

"If successful, it would undo one of the worst blunders of his administration, which has not exactly been error-free", wrote Edward Alden for the Nikkei Asian Review. "Now is the time for Japan to go along with that trend".

And for the Japanese people, the possibility that they could no longer rely on the protective umbrella of US military power may be the most unsettling development in their postwar history.

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