Kyodo News
Back to Main
Trump backs Japan's Russia policy to move isles issue forward: Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he has earned U.S.
President Donald Trump's backing in seeking closer ties with Russia
in a bid to resolve a long-standing territorial row over islands off
Hokkaido that are claimed by Japan.

"President Trump understands Japan's (policy) to promote
dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the
territorial issue," Abe told a TV program after returning from the
United States, where he held his first summit with Trump on Friday
and Saturday in Washington and Florida.

Trump has adopted a softer stance toward Russia than his
predecessor Barack Obama, who was at odds with Putin over the
conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

The Obama administration had been cautious about Abe courting
Putin with economic cooperation and even requested that he refrain
from visiting Russia at one point, government sources said earlier.

Abe also said that he agreed with Trump on the need to engage in
dialogue with Putin to resolve outstanding global issues, including
Syria and Ukraine.

At their summit Friday, Abe and Trump confirmed the strength of
the bilateral alliance, with Trump affirming that the United States
is committed to the defense of Japan, including if the
Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which
are claimed by China, come under attack.

They also agreed to launch a high-level economic dialogue to be
headed by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice
President Mike Pence covering trade, macroeconomic policy as well as
infrastructure and energy projects, Japanese officials said.

Following the summit at the White House in Washington, the
leaders flew together to Trump's Mar-a-Lago vacation estate in Palm
Beach, Florida, where they played golf and had dinner on both Friday
and Saturday.

Abe said in the TV program he had "frank talks on the bilateral
alliance and regional matters" with Trump over golf.

The prime minister said he believes Trump is "gradually" gaining
understanding of the significance of the 12-party Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade agreement, although Trump has announced the United
States will withdraw from it.

Abe also said Trump, who has been critical of the United States'
trade deficit with Japan, now knows that the "(current) structure is
different from that of the trade frictions in the 1980s and 1990s."

Abe said he explained to Trump that exports of Japanese cars are
decreasing compared with the 1980s and 1990s, and more Japanese cars
are produced in the United States.

In another TV program on Monday, Abe said that the Trump
administration would take a "stronger stance" in addressing the North
Korean nuclear threat.

"The Obama administration was cautious about using military
power. (But) Mr. Trump has various options on the cards. He thinks he
wants to resolve the issue diplomatically," Abe said.

In the program, Abe also said Trump did not bring up the subject
of Japan's financial contributions for hosting U.S. military forces
during any of their meetings.

The Japanese government had been concerned that Trump could urge
it to pay more after he repeatedly said during the presidential
campaign that Japan and other U.S. allies should cover more of the
costs of stationing U.S. forces or else defend themselves.

The issue is "over," Abe said. "The president made no reference
to it. Rather, he expressed gratitude to us for warmly hosting the
U.S. Marines." (Feb. 13)