Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday he wants to build a relationship of trust when he meets U.S. President-elect Donald Trump this week, stressing that the two-way alliance is the core of Tokyo’s diplomacy and security.
Abe, set to meet Trump later on Thursday in New York, is expected to be the first foreign leader to do so since the U.S. real estate magnate’s election on Nov. 8.
The U.S.-Japan alliance “is the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy and security. Only when there is trust does an alliance come alive,” Abe told reporters before leaving Tokyo, Kyodo news agency reported.
Trump aide Kellyanne Conway said on Thursday the meeting would likely be “much more informal,” given that Trump does not take over the White House from Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama until Jan. 20.
“Any deeper conversations about policy and the relationship between Japan and the United States will have to wait until after the inauguration,” she said, speaking on the CBS “This Morning” television program.
Details about the meeting remained unclear, with Trump’s transition team not responding to requests for comment. The meeting is expected later Thursday after Abe arrives in the United States.
On Wednesday, Japanese officials said those details had not been finalized.
The New York Times reported Abe would visit Trump Tower in Manhattan but did not say when.
An adviser to Trump, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to media, said earlier this week that Trump would seek to reassure Abe and other Asian allies rattled by his campaign rhetoric.
Trump, a Republican, had fanned worries in Tokyo and beyond with his comments on the possibility of Japan acquiring nuclear arms and demands that allies pay more for the upkeep of U.S. forces on their soil or face the possibility of their withdrawal.
“Prime Minister Abe will definitely talk about the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and that alliance is not only for Japan and the United States, but also for the entire Indo-Pacific region as well as world politics,” Abe adviser Katsuyuki Kawai told Reuters.
Kawai said he had spoken to several Trump advisers and lawmakers since arriving in Washington on Monday and had been told “we don’t have to take each word that Mr. Trump said publicly literally”.
The Trump adviser said he expected the president-elect to reaffirm “the American commitment to being in the Pacific long term.”
The adviser said Japan’s financial support for U.S. troops in Japan might come up but was unlikely to be a focus.
Asked whether the issue would be raised, Conway told CBS on Thursday: “Maybe they’ll discuss that today.”
Some diplomats say that until Trump makes key appointments, it will be hard to assess his policies on issues ranging from overseas deployments of U.S. troops, China’s maritime aggressiveness in Asia and North Korea’s nuclear threat.
Abe, a political blue blood and veteran lawmaker, and Trump, a brash outsider with no diplomatic or government experience, have sharp differences on policy issues such as free trade.
Trump’s election also has dashed hopes for U.S. approval of 12-nation trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a linchpin of Washington’s “pivot” to Asia and a pillar of Abe’s economic reforms.