Japanese PM gets hug from Donald Trump amid friendly meeting

Jon Howard
February 12, 2017

Trudeau won't be the first leader to meet Trump at the White House, so the prime minister will have a couple of previous encounters to study if he so chooses: visits by British Prime Minister Theresa May and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japanese media reported on Abe arriving in the US capital for his first meeting with Trump since the former reality TV star was sworn in last month. "Strong hands", Trump said to Abe as the media left the room.

Before joining the president in the White House, Abe addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and sought to reassure nervous business leaders in both nations of the steady alliance between the United States and Japan.

In this photo released by Japan's Cabinet Public Relations Office, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second from left, chats with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, Nov. 17, 2016.

Abe has particularly sought a word from Trump on the application of Article 5 of the treaty, which obliges the United States to defend Japan, to the Senkaku Islands, in an effort to demonstrate to China that there is no gap in the Japan-U.S. alliance that China can take advantage of.

"The United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent", Trump said during the conference at Trump's south Florida estate.

Mr Trump greeting Mr Abe warmly at the White House on Friday. The handshake between the two men was odd. CNN's Dan Merica called Abe's compliments on Trump's golf prowess an attempt to "butter" the president up. Trump had threatened during the campaign to dramatically cut USA military assistance to Japan-and even force it to develop its own nuclear weapons as a deterrent to North Korean aggression.

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At the joint conference with Mr Abe, Mr Trump "said the right things and was more aware of his language; he obviously wanted to put everyone at ease", said Ms Goto.

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

Japan got continued US backing for its dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea that China also claims.

"We will develop the two countries' economies even more based on free and fair rules", Abe added, stressing he wants to "confirm that" with Trump at the meeting. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will make an early stop in Tokyo.

Trump said the alliance between the USA and Japan was a cornerstone of regional peace and stability, edging away from campaign pledges to force Japan to pay more for the USA security umbrella.

To be clear, what Trump defiantly stated "won't happen" is not what's happened here, so that, at least, is cause for some relief.

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