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AKIPRESS.COM - Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe met with Donald Trump on Thursday seeking clarity on campaign statements by the U.S. president-elect that rattled the Tokyo government, later telling reporters he was confident Trump was a “trustworthy leader”, according to The Japan Times.
After the hastily arranged 90-minute meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Abe told reporters: “The talks made me feel sure that we can build a relationship of trust.” But he would not disclose specifics of the conversation because the talks were unofficial.
“I shared my basic views with Mr. Trump. We discussed a variety of issues,” Abe said in a statement released by his office.
The conversation came as Japan’s leadership was nervous about the future strength of an alliance that is core to Tokyo’s diplomacy and security.
Abe and other Asian leaders were alarmed at Trump’s pledge during his campaign to make allies pay more for help from U.S. forces, his suggestion that Japan should acquire its own nuclear weapons and his staunch opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
The Republican president-elect will succeed Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20.
Describing his conversation as “frank and candid” and held in a “warm atmosphere,” Abe said: “Our alliance will not function without trust. I came away convinced that President-elect Trump is a leader who can be trusted.”
He said he had agreed to meet again with Trump “at a convenient time to cover a wider area in greater depth.” It was not clear if such a meeting would occur before Trump’s inauguration.
Trump official Kellyanne Conway said earlier on Thursday that “any deeper conversations about policy and the relationship between Japan and the United States will have to wait until after the inauguration.”
Trump officials did not immediately comment following the meeting with Abe.
Abe and Trump gave each other golfing gear as gifts during their meeting, according to a Japanese government statement.Finance Minister of Japan Taro Aso told reporters on Friday in Tokyo that it was beneficial for Abe to meet Trump before he becomes president, given the importance of Japan-U.S. relations.
Abe has boosted Japan’s overall defense spending since taking office in 2012, while stretching the limits of the nation’s pacifist postwar Constitution to allow the military to take a bigger global role. Defense spending still stands at just over 1 percent of GDP compared with more than 3 percent in the United States.
The United States is projected to spend $5.745 billion for U.S. forces in Japan in the current 2017 fiscal year. According to the Defense Ministry, Tokyo’s expenses related to U.S. troops stationed in Japan totaled about ¥720 billion ($6.6 billion) in the year that ended in March.
Some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggested an image of Japan forged in the 1980s, when Tokyo was seen by many in the United States as a threat to jobs and a free-rider on defense.
The Trump adviser who spoke earlier in the week stressed a more positive view.
“Frankly, the prime minister has been more assertive and forthright in trying to make those changes to Japan’s global posture,” he said.