(TOKYO) — President Donald Trump has said his relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is one that “has never been closer,” and Abe has described Trump as “a leader who I can have great confidence in.”
Trump hopes this relationship will pay off in the effort to pressure North Korea to back away from the nuclear brink.
The U.S. president and Japanese prime minister are expected to focus in their meeting in Tokyo on Sunday on the nuclear standoff with North Korea amid a heightened war of words between Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Trump is expected to call on the international community to maximize pressure on Kim Jong Un’s regime, a position fully supported by Japan. North Korea launched two missiles over Japanese airspace in September.
“Well, of course they’re worried. They should be worried,” Trump told Fox News last week, referring to Japan. “You know they’re very close to North Korea.”
The president has said all options – including diplomatic negotiations — remain on the table with North Korea in hopes of avoiding military action. But Trump has also said he told his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that any negotiations with Kim Jong Un are a waste of time, and in August the president warned that North Korea would be “met with fire and fury.”
“Japan fully supports the United States position that all options are on the table when it comes to North Korea,” said Takehiro Shimada, spokesperson for Japan’s embassy in the U.S.
Shimada told ABC News that Abe is not concerned that Trump may be seen as sending mixed signals to North Korea. He cited the frequent phone conversations and information-sharing between the Japanese and U.S. leaders and referred to Trump’s hostile rhetoric as a “tactic.”
Trump has pushed back against the suggestion that his administration’s approach to North Korea is inconsistent, telling reporters in August, “There are no mixed messages.”
Japan isn’t expecting that the United States will immediately engage military action, Shimada said.
Since November, Trump and Abe have talked on the phone 16 times and met in person five times.
Abe was the first foreign leader to meet with Trump, which he did one week after the November 2016 election. He’s also the first foreign leader known to have visited three of Trump’s residences – Trump Tower, the White House and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a weekend of golfing. The two leaders are expected to play a round of golf together while Trump is in Japan.
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