Home English News Trump hails ‘great friendship’ with Japanese Prime Minister Abe

Trump hails ‘great friendship’ with Japanese Prime Minister Abe

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US President Donald Trump called Friday for closer ties with Japan, while describing a “great friendship” with visiting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The first foreign leader to visit the president-elect at Trump Tower in Manhattan just days after the November elections, Abe was met by Trump at the door of the presidential residence prior to their Oval Office meeting.

“I grabbed him and hugged him because that’s the way we feel,” Trump said in a White House joint press conference. “We have a very, very good bond – very, very good chemistry. I’ll let you know if it changes, but I don’t think it will.”

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Abe is the second leader to visit Trump at the White House, following British Prime Minister Theresa May on January 27, and ahead of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s planned meeting Monday.

“This is one of our earliest visits from a foreign leader, and I am truly glad that it could be from such an important and steadfast ally,” Trump said.

“The bond between our two nations and the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep. This administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer.”

He called Japan “such an important and steadfast ally. … This administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer.”

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President Donald Trump arrives at Palm Beach International Airport on Air Force One Friday, February 10, 2016 accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his wife Akie Abe. (Credit Image: © Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post via ZUMA Wire)

The two leaders discussed economic issues during a working lunch in the White House before departing with their wives aboard Air Force One for Palm Beach, Florida, where they are to stay at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s personal resort, and play golf Saturday at a course he owns nearby.

Trump said he “will seek a trading relationship that is free, fair and reciprocal, benefiting both of our countries.”

Trump last month threatened Japanese carmaker Toyota with a border tax if it built a planned new factory in Mexico, and the company later announced plans to add 400 jobs at a US plant.

Abe, seeking to calm Japanese industry unnerved by the new US president’s trade policies, was expected to propose an economic cooperation package including a 150-billion-dollar investment by Japan’s government and private sectors in US infrastructure projects.

He even made a pitch to the president for Japanese high-speed rail technology. Abe said that the latest system could cut travel time to one hour from Washington to New York – noting that the city is home to Trump Tower.

“I’m sure you would appreciate the speed, the comfort and safety,” Abe said.

The fastest current train on that route takes nearly three hours.

Abe avoided directly criticizing Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country trade agreement including the US, Japan and 10 other countries in the western hemisphere and Asia – but not China.

The new president has vowed to cancel or renegotiate multilateral trade deals but has voiced openness to bilateral arrangements.

Abe said he was “quite optimistic” that a planned framework for economic dialogue to be arranged between Tokyo and Washington would have “good results.”

He said that a “free and fair, common set of rules should be created for the free trade regime in the region, and that was the purpose of TPP – and that importance has not changed.”

Trump telephoned late Thursday for the first time in office with Chinese President President Xi Jinping.

“It was a very, very warm conversation,” he said Friday. “I think we are in the process of getting along very well, and I think that will also be very much of a benefit to Japan. … I believe that that will all work out very well for everybody – China, Japan, the United States and everybody in the region.”

Trump accuses China of unfair competition, and has accused China of currency manipulation, though he has yet to take formal action on the issue.

“I’ve been complaining about that for a long time,” he said at the White House. “Eventually, and probably, very much sooner than a lot of people understand or think, we will be all at a level playing field, because that’s the only way it’s fair.”

dpa