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Japan, U.S. assembling ministerial dialogue team: source

The Japanese government and the administration of new U.S.
President Donald Trump are planning to form a new framework for
ministerial-level dialogue to coordinate on economic, trade and
security policy, a Japan-U.S. diplomatic source said Wednesday.

With Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice
President Mike Pence at the helm, the forum will serve as a venue for
repeated strategic talks between key ministers aimed at producing
mutual benefit, the source said.

If realized, the framework will be the first of its kind between
Japan and the United States covering this range of Cabinet
portfolios, apparently reflecting the two governments' eagerness to
address China's economic and military presence through policy.

According to the source, the governments are working on the plan
following a U.S. suggestion to make the move ahead of next week's
summit between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in
Washington.

Arrangements may be made quickly enough that the leaders can
agree face-to-face to set up the forum during their Feb. 10 meeting.

According to the source, Japan will be represented by Aso -- who
doubles as finance minister -- as well as Foreign Minister Fumio
Kishida, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and Economy, Trade and
Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko.

The U.S. side will include Pence and other counterparts in the
Trump Cabinet -- U.S. Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson,
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur
Ross.

Aso, Kishida and Seko are expected to accompany Abe on his visit
to Washington next week.

The trip comes amid concern over how Trump's "America First"
creed could impact the allies' future trade and security relations
and affect Japanese firms doing business in the United States.

Since his inauguration on Jan. 20, Trump has slammed Japan for
automobile trade practices that he labeled "not fair" and on
Wednesday implied Japanese authorities are intervening in the
currency market to keep the yen weak.

The Abe administration apparently holds the view that such
"misunderstandings" about Japan's economy and trade situation can be
tackled effectively through dialogue with Pence and other members of
the Trump Cabinet.

Abe is also expected to appeal to Trump directly at their
upcoming meeting by putting forward a policy package tentatively
named the "Japan-U.S. Growth and Employment Initiative," according to
Japanese government sources.

The package outlines Japan's potential to contribute to
infrastructure building and the development of cutting-edge
technologies to create several hundreds of thousands of jobs in the
United States, the sources said.

At a House of Representatives Budget Committee session
Wednesday, Abe said he wants to "have proper talks within a large
framework" on ways Japan can help raise productivity across U.S.
industry and create jobs. (Feb. 2)