Japanese PM Abe at Mar-a-Lago for meetings with US President Trump

World Today

US President Donald Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe take part in a bilateral meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida on April 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in the U.S. for two days of meetings with President Donald Trump. The talks come as the embattled Japanese leader fights for support at home – while the U.S. president faces global backlash over proposed tariffs.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is no stranger to the “Winter White House.” U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Abe at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida back in February of 2017. And Abe hosted the American leader in Tokyo later that year.

The White House said Trump has met and spoken with Abe more than any other leader. Indeed, they have a lot to discuss.

Both have said the issue of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – or DPRK – and its nuclear and missiles program is a top priority. In fact, the two will spend much of Abe’s visit exclusively discussing Pyongyang.

“We have also started talking to North Korea directly,” Trump said. “We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea. And I really believe that there is a lot of good will, a lot of good things are happening.”

This week’s meeting is their first since Trump accepted an invitation by the North’s Kim Jong-un to meet, face-to-face.

Japan has offered to join that conversation. Analysts said that’s unlikely.

Regionally, Japan has arguably taken the hardest line against the DPRK. The new government in Seoul favors intra-Korean talks and exchanges. Abe doesn’t trust Kim Jong Un. His government has repeatedly warned the world to not by fooled by what it’s called Pyongyang’s ‘charm offensive’.

But recent diplomatic overtures – including Kim’s visit to Beijing, and his upcoming talks with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in – risk leaving Tokyo out of the equation.

Abe is said to worry that Washington will focus its talks with Pyongyang on intercontinental ballistic missiles that threaten the US, and will overlook the short- and medium- range arsenal pointed right at Japan.

The other big issue is trade.

Japan is among the few American allies directly impacted by recent U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum – but so far not exempt.

Tokyo’s economic surplus over Washington may absorb some of that, but only for so long.

Trump may use the tariffs as leverage to push Abe into bilateral free trade talks. The Japanese leader favors a multi-national approach, namely, the TPP, or Trans Pacific Partnership.

Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after he won the election. He’s invested a lot into their relationship since. But Abe’s support back home is in decline. This may be one of the most important meetings of his tenure, and his chance to show that that investment has paid off.