NEW YORK —Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday he had a “very candid discussion” with President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday.
Abe declined to explain in detail what he discussed with Trump because the visit was “unofficial” as Trump has not yet assumed the presidency, but he stressed that he emerged feeling that the US and Japan will be able to maintain “a relationship of trust” with Trump as president.
The meeting was Trump’s first meeting with a foreign head of state since he clinched the presidency last week and comes after Trump has repeatedly suggested Japan should shoulder a bigger financial burden of the US’s military forces in the region.
Abe declined to say if the two men hashed out the defense issue or discussed their disagreement over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but stressed that he emerged “convinced that Mr. Trump is a leader in whom I can have confidence.”
“I do believe that without confidence between the two nations (the) alliance would never function in the future and as the outcome of today’s discussion I am convinced Mr. Trump is a leader in whom I can have great confidence,” Abe said following the meeting.
Abe, like other Asian leaders, is keen to find out to what extent Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric will become policy after Trump suggested he may withdraw US troops from the region.
According to CNN, a top aide to Abe, Katsuyuki Kawai said that he’d been told by members of Trump’s transition team that Trump’s previous remarks during the campaign should not be taken literally.
“I am very honored to see the president-elect ahead of other world leaders,” Abe told reporters before his departure.
“The Japan-US alliance is the axis of Japan’s diplomacy and security. The alliance becomes alive only when there is trust between us. I would like to build such a trust with Mr. Trump.”
During the campaign, Trump stunned Japan and South Korea, another long-standing ally, with the suggestion the U.S. military withdraw from their shores.
Trump’s suggestions that Japan, which until last year had a pacifist constitution, should obtain nuclear weapons to protect itself from North Korea caused particular consternation.
“Japan is better if it protects itself against this maniac of North Korea,” Trump told CNN during the campaign.