WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump will play host to Japan’s Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago this week amid growing strain between the two countries over the president’s planned meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his push for new tariffs.
The visit will be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea, which Japan eyes warily. It will also serve as a test of whether the fond personal relationship the two leaders have forged on the golf course and over meetings and phone calls has chilled over Trump’s recent moves, including his failure to exempt Japan from new steel and aluminum tariffs.
“We expect it to be very positive,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday of Abe’s visit. “Obviously, the president has got a great relationship there, and it’s going to be centred primarily on preparation for talks with North Korea as well as a lot of trade discussion is expected to come up.”
The official visit will begin Tuesday afternoon with a one-on-one meeting followed by a small group discussion with top national security officials focused on the Kim summit. In the evening, the president and first lady Melania Trump will have dinner with the Japanese prime minister and his wife.
On Wednesday, the topic will broaden to other issues affecting the Indo-Pacific region, including trade and energy. Trump and Abe will also hold a joint press conference before the president and first lady host the Japanese delegations for dinner. Abe will return to Japan on Thursday morning.
Golf is not on the official schedule, but senior administration officials didn’t rule it out completely. Trump and Abe played together during Abe’s last trip to Florida a year ago and during Trump’s maiden trip to Japan late last year.
When Trump hosted Abe at his private Mar-a-Lago club just weeks after his inauguration, North Korea launched its first missile test of Trump’s administration, and the two delivered a joint statement denouncing the launch.
This time, Abe’s visit comes weeks after Trump took him — and the region — by surprise when he announced he had accepted an invitation to sit down with Kim following months of increasingly heated rhetoric over the North’s nuclear weapons program.
Among the major powers in Northeast Asia, Japan has been left out of the recent flurry of diplomacy with North Korea. Abe will be seeking reassurance from Trump that security threats to Japan won’t be overlooked in the U.S.-North Korea summit, slated for May or early June.
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, said the goal of the summit is to get North Korea to “step away from its efforts to hold America at risk with nuclear weapons.”
Abe has voiced fears that short- and medium-range missiles that pose a threat to Japan might not be part of the U.S. negotiations and has said he worries Trump may “end up accepting North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons.”
James Schoff, a former Pentagon adviser on East Asia policy and now a senior …read more