TOKYO – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will travel to the United States on Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump in a summit focusing on talks with North Korea, and on protectionist measures announced by the White House.
Abe and Trump are scheduled to take part in a two-day summit in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, until Wednesday.
This will be Abe’s second visit to Trump’s private home since the latter became president in January last year.
While the two leaders have held meetings or phone conversations on 20 occasions – making Abe the foreign leader to have the most frequent contact with Trump – the forthcoming summit comes at a complicated moment in bilateral ties from the Japanese perspective.
Abe, a strong advocate of dealing with Pyongyang with an iron hand, which Washington had been doing until the start of the thaw in relations on the Korean peninsula, was taken aback by Trump’s decision to agree to a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to discuss denuclearization.
Tokyo has always expressed skepticism regarding talks with the North, and has remained on the sidelines of the diplomatic efforts for a thaw started by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is also scheduled to meet with the North Korean leader.
The leading role played by Seoul and Beijing concerning meetings in the run-up to the summits with Kim has left Abe disconcerted, diplomatic sources told EFE.
The Japanese prime minister is expected to discuss with Trump issues related to its national interests with respect to the forthcoming summit with Pyongyang.
Specifically, Tokyo hopes that during the summits with Kim, discussions include issues concerning Japanese people kidnapped by North Korea, which has remained unresolved for decades, and that Pyongyang commits to stopping its short- and medium-range missile tests.
Besides coordinating their positions regarding North Korea, the two leaders are expected to also discuss the import duties on steel and aluminum announced by the US, which would affect Japan among other countries.
These duties pose an obstacle to the negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement the two nations were scheduled to begin, after the US left the multilateral trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Tokyo still hopes to convince Trump to return to the TPP, and has ruled out re-negotiating the deal.
Last week, Trump asked his advisors to examine the possibility of re-joining the TPP with the aim of protecting American farmers in the wake of aggressive tariffs by China in response to protectionist measures by the US.