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Donald Trump (R) and Shinzo Abe held talks in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, on Feb. 10.
Donald Trump (R) and Shinzo Abe held talks in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, on Feb. 10.

US Commits to Japan Security

Leaders of US and Japan sign a joint statement reaffirming the former’s commitment to defend its ally militarily

US Commits to Japan Security

President Donald Trump welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a brotherly hug and warm words of admiration, as he ditched previously hard-charging rhetoric toward Tokyo during a White House summit.

Trump praised his guest’s “strong hands”, the pair’s “very, very good chemistry” and rolled out a White House military honor guard in a remarkable public display of diplomatic affection, AFP reported.

“When I greeted him today at the car,” Trump said after an Oval Office meeting, “I shook hands, but I grabbed him and hugged him, because that’s the way we feel.”

The odd political couple had lunch at the White House before heading to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida for further talks and a round of golf on Saturday.

The Japanese leader is trying to build a personal rapport with the mercurial new US president and head off simmering disputes.

Ties have been strained by Trump’s willingness to question longstanding defense commitments and his rejection of a trans-Pacific trade deal.

Plans under consideration in the White House propose a substantial hike of import tariffs that could have a serious impact on Japanese manufacturers.

Abe dodged questions about the trade deal, instead dispatching a slew of compliments.

“Donald, Mr President, you are an excellent businessman,” Abe said, praising Trump on everything from his meteoric political rise to his golf game.

“My scores in golf are not up to the level of Donald at all,” Abe said self-effacingly.

  Deep Bonds

Abe’s efforts appeared to have paid off. After some tough anti-Japanese rhetoric on the campaign trail, Trump embraced longstanding defense agreements and “free, fair and reciprocal” trade.

“We’re committed to the security of Japan,” Trump said.

“The bond between our two nations and the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep. This administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer.”

In a statement, Trump offered reassurances the US would come to Japan’s defense if China were to seize the disputed Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyu in China.

In a joint statement, the pair said they “oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands”—comments that are sure to rile Beijing.

Although Abe has pushed ahead with efforts to boost Japan’s military capabilities, Tokyo still relies on US security guarantees.

Early Friday, Abe told business leaders that US-Japanese commerce had been “win-win” and highlighted the hundreds of thousands of American jobs created by Japanese investments.

Most budget cars sold by Toyota and Honda are “produced in US factories by American workers”, he said, noting that US investments by Japanese firms total $411 billion, generating 840,000 jobs.

On the issue of China, Abe and Trump may find common cause.

Tokyo was often concerned about former president Barack Obama’s willingness to work with Beijing. Trump is expected to take a tougher line.

“We will work together to promote our shared interests, of which we have many, in the region, including freedom from navigation and defending against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat, both of which I consider a very, very high priority,” Trump said.

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