The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he believes Donald Trump is a “reliable leader” in whom he can have “great confidence”, after he became the first foreign leader to meet the US President-elect face-to-face.
Mr Trump welcomed Mr Abe to Trump Tower in Manhattan shortly before 5pm on Thursday, for a hastily planned encounter that lasted approximately an hour and a half. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr Abe declined to reveal “details or specifics” of their conversation, but insisted it had been “very, very cordial”.
The President-elect’s aides had earlier emphasised the informal nature of the meeting, which was organised at the last minute after Mr Abe reportedly called Mr Trump to congratulate him on his shock election win, and suggested he drop by Mr Trump’s New York home on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru.
It was not clear that Mr Trump had any time to seriously prepare for the meeting, with the US State Department saying it had not been asked by anyone in the transition team to provide the President-elect with background papers on US-Japan relations.
“Any deeper conversations about policy and the relationship between Japan and the United States will have to wait until after the inauguration,” Mr Trump’s presidential campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CBS before the meeting.
Mr Abe was said to be keen to clarify some of the more controversial remarks on foreign policy that Mr Trump had made on the campaign trail, including a pledge to make US allies pay more for US military assistance, and the suggestion that Japan and nearby South Korea should acquire their own nuclear weapons. Mr Trump has also promised to tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, of which Mr Abe has been a staunch advocate.
Before leaving Tokyo on Thursday, Mr Abe said he was “very honoured” to be the first world leader to have an audience with the President-elect. “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,” he said.
Other world leaders will be looking to Mr Abe for hints on how Mr Trump is likely to approach foreign affairs when he reaches the White House, given the unorthodox and controversial methods he used taken to get there.
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