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Abe, Trump agree to hold summit on Feb. 10, affirm alliance importance

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald
Trump agreed during a telephone conversation Saturday to hold
face-to-face talks on Feb. 10 and affirmed the importance of
bilateral ties, the Japanese and U.S. governments said.

The leaders "affirmed in our phone conversation the importance
of the Japan-U.S. alliance in economic and security challenges," Abe
told reporters after the call.

And Trump "affirmed the ironclad U.S. commitment to ensuring the
security of Japan," the White House press office said.

The talks on Feb. 10 in Washington will be the first meeting
between the Japanese and American leaders since Trump took office.
The two held unofficial talks in New York last November shortly after
Trump's U.S. presidential election victory.

"I want us to have a frank exchange of views on the economy and
security in our meeting," Abe told reporters after speaking with
Trump on Saturday for 42 minutes.

A Japanese government official quoted Abe as telling Trump that
he "hopes the United States will become a greater country through
(your) leadership," adding Japan wants to "fulfill our role as your
ally."

Trump told Abe the United States considers Japan an extremely
important partner, and feels the alliance between the countries is of
high importance, the official said.

The two leaders also committed to deepening the bilateral trade
and investment relationship, according to the White House.

During the call, Abe explained to Trump the contributions of
Japanese automakers to the U.S. economy, the official said without
elaborating, while another government source said Trump asked Abe to
urge Japanese companies to create more jobs in the United States.

Since his inauguration, Trump has accused Japan of conducting
trade practices in the automobile sector that are "not fair" to U.S.
companies. Trump administration threats to impose a 20 percent tariff
on various products made in Mexico and shipped to the United States
could also adversely affect Japanese automobile and auto parts makers
with plants there.

After Trump criticized Toyota Motor Corp. this month for
building a second vehicle assembly plant in Mexico, Japan's biggest
automaker quickly announced it would invest $10 billion in its U.S.
operations over the next five years.

Trump and Abe did not specifically discuss the 12-nation
Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal from which Trump withdrew the
United States through an executive order this past week, according to
a Japanese official.

Trump has said he favors bilateral deals over the TPP, which he
called a "disaster" for the United States, while Abe has hailed both
the TPP's promised economic benefits and strategic importance in
setting a fair standard for regional trade. China is not a signatory
to the TPP.

The leaders also did not specifically discuss the possibility of
negotiating a bilateral trade deal, the official said.

Abe indicated in the Diet last week that Japan could pursue a
free trade agreement or economic partnership agreement with the
United States while still promoting the TPP.

While noting that Abe and Trump have "different approaches" on
trade, the Japanese official said the two leaders will have a frank
discussion about trade when they meet next month.

The leaders also discussed matters related to the security
situation in East Asia, as well as U.S. Defense Secretary James
Mattis' trip to Japan next week, the Japanese official said. Mattis
will visit Japan Feb. 3-4 for talks with Japanese Defense Minister
Tomomi Inada following a stop in South Korea.

The White House quoted the leaders as saying they will "consult
and cooperate" on the threat posed by North Korea. (Jan. 29)