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Abe to Meet Trump to Press Japan’s Case on Security and Trade

In their call on Thursday, Mr. Abe told Mr. Trump that “a strong Japan-U.S. alliance is an indispensable presence that supports peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to Koichi Hagiuda, a deputy chief cabinet secretary. Mr. Hagiuda said the two leaders did not discuss the trade deal or Mr. Trump’s calls for Japan to shoulder more of the cost of hosting United States forces.

It is not clear whether Mr. Abe will push to discuss such specifics in his meeting with Mr. Trump, scheduled for next Thursday, when the prime minister will be in New York on his way to Peru for a forum on economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. But he will certainly look to begin the diplomatic dance of persuading Mr. Trump to back away from some of his harshest rhetoric on those issues.

Mr. Abe will seek to develop a personal relationship with the president-elect — a connection that might not come so naturally, given Mr. Trump’s maverick personality and lack of diplomatic experience and Mr. Abe’s long career as an establishment politician. This is Mr. Abe’s second tenure as prime minister, and his father held the post decades ago.

“It’s really hard to imagine a political blue blood like Abe establishing a warm rapport with Trump,” said Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo. “But it’s sort of like your family. He’s inherited the U.S. as an ally, so he’s going to have to develop a working relationship.”

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For Japan, much is riding on the bond between the two countries. Although Japan has its own military, it counts on American forces — which have been based here since the occupation after World War II — to help protect it from threats from surrounding countries, an obligation the United States is bound by treaty to fulfill. Japan pays about $ 1.8 billion toward the cost of hosting American troops on the island of Okinawa and elsewhere around Japan.

Rising tensions in Asia have made the alliance particularly vital for Japan. North Korea’s tests of atomic weapons, and repeated incursions by Chinese vessels into disputed waters surrounding a group of Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea, have unnerved the Japanese. Mr. Abe has long sought to bolster Japan’s own military.

But Japan completely relies on the United States for nuclear deterrence; while Japan is the only country where atomic bombs have ever been used in war, it does not have nuclear weapons. During the campaign, Mr. Trump suggested several times that Japan, along with its neighbor and fellow American ally South Korea, should develop and pay for its own nuclear arsenal.

In an interview that aired Thursday on NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, Maj. Gen. Bert K. Mizusawa, who was recently named one of Mr. Trump’s advisers, said that as a businessman, Mr. Trump regards treaties with other countries as contracts, and he thinks they need to be reviewed to see whether they benefit the American people. Mr. Mizusawa added that the so-called nuclear umbrella that the United States provides to Japan and South Korea is costly, and he suggested that North Korea’s increasing threat would make it even costlier.

Mr. Abe is unlikely to broach the nuclear topic directly with Mr. Trump next week. Antinuclear sentiment is strong in Japan, which was struck in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami that crippled a nuclear power plant in Fukushima; any effort to develop nuclear weapons would face a severe domestic backlash.


The United States aircraft carrier John C. Stennis during a joint military exercise with the United States, Japan and India near Okinawa in June. Credit Nobuhiro Kubo/Reuters

South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, also reached out to Mr. Trump on Thursday with a 10-minute congratulatory call, emphasizing the importance of maintaining strong sanctions and pressure against North Korea. A statement from Ms. Park’s office said Mr. Trump had assured her that he agreed “100 percent.”

“We are with you all the way, and we will not waver,” the statement quoted him as saying.

For South Korea and Japan, perhaps more worrying than any immediate action Mr. Trump might take is the action he might not take. Analysts here said they worried that Asia, after famously being the focus of a “pivot” by President Obama, would fall down the list of American foreign policy priorities, leaving a vacuum into which China might rush.

“We should be aware that the U.S. will pay less attention to Asia,” Nikkei Shimbun, a Japanese financial newspaper, wrote in an editorial on Thursday. “During the transitional period, China could make a new move in the South or East China Sea. The Japanese government needs to be ready for such a situation.”

Since the election, many analysts have appeared on Japanese talk shows to discuss the effect of a Trump presidency. But as elsewhere, much of the talk is based on speculation about how literally to take Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges.

“It’s not quite healthy to draw any conclusion from what he has said,” said Yoshiki Mine, a former official with the Foreign Ministry in Japan and now head of the Institute of Peaceful Diplomacy, a research organization. “We have to wait to see whether he will get good briefings or whether he is flexible enough to look at things more squarely.”

Source: NYT > World

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