G-20 Summit

Trump, Abe committed to tackling shared security issues

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front, centre) with leaders of the G-20 economies and states invited as guests, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second row, far right), at the start of the summit in Osaka yesterday. Mr Abe and US Preside
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front, centre) with leaders of the G-20 economies and states invited as guests, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second row, far right), at the start of the summit in Osaka yesterday. Mr Abe and US President Donald Trump (front row, fifth from left), who met on the sidelines of the summit, stressed the importance of "continuing dialogue in a constructive manner with the Chinese government in the fields of security and economy".PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

White House says they confirmed intent to expand alliance cooperation around globe

United States President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday discussed joint efforts by their countries to "ensure respect for sovereignty, the rule of law, and the principle of free, fair and reciprocal trade", a White House statement said.

Their 12th meeting - the third in as many months - occurred on the sidelines of the two-day Group of 20 Leaders' Summit in Osaka, which began yesterday.

The two leaders, in their 45-minute talk, reaffirmed their commitment to US-Japan coordination on shared security challenges including North Korea and Iran, the White House added.

"They confirmed their intent to deepen and expand US-Japan alliance cooperation around the globe, including taking steps to maintain the alliance's technological advantage and bolstering systems to safeguard sensitive information and technology sharing," said the statement.

Japanese Foreign Press Secretary Takeshi Osuga said the two leaders confirmed they will "continue to further strengthen the unshakeable alliance", but did not go into the minutiae of the 1960 US-Japan security treaty that was criticised this week by Mr Trump.

He said the two leaders discussed China, and confirmed the importance of "continuing dialogue in a constructive manner with the Chinese government in the fields of security and economy".

On Iran, which is days away from breaching a threshold on enriched uranium stockpiles under a 2015 nuclear deal that Mr Trump pulled out of last year, the Agence France-Presse reported the US leader as having said separately: "We have a lot of time. There is no rush, they can take their time. There is absolutely no time pressure. Hopefully, in the end, it is going to work out. If it does, great, if it doesn't, you will be hearing about it."

 
 
 
 

Mr Abe visited Teheran two weeks ago to broker an uneasy peace between the two countries, though his attempt was complicated by an attack on two oil tankers - one Japanese - sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Yesterday, Mr Abe noted at the outset of his talks with Mr Trump the challenges facing an uncertain global environment, like ensuring sustainable economic growth.

He added: "I would like to communicate a strong message: Without the cooperation of the US and Japan, such work wouldn't be possible."

Still, despite Mr Abe's best efforts to court the US President - including inviting him as the first state guest of the new Reiwa (beautiful harmony) imperial era last month - Mr Trump has continued to take potshots at Japan on what he sees as unfairness in defence and trade.

Just days ago, he slammed the imbalance in the 1960 Japan-US security treaty as one that does not oblige Japan to defend the US if it is attacked. Japan renounced its right to wage war in the 1947 US-written Constitution after its defeat in World War II, and in return hosts 54,000 American soldiers in 85 bases across the country, from which Washington projects military power in the region.

Japan's huge trade surplus over the US, likewise, has been a bugbear for Mr Trump, who has refused to budge significantly on the issue except to give Mr Abe a reprieve by delaying an outcome until after an Upper House election on July 21.

The US wants to set a numerical ceiling on Japanese auto exports to the country in exchange for not imposing a uniform 25 per cent duty on Japanese cars and auto parts.

Washington also wants Tokyo to remove tariffs on US agricultural produce - which will require Mr Abe to expend much domestic political capital - but Japan is reluctant to go beyond what has been agreed under the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Japan-European Union economic partnership agreement.

Mr Trump told Mr Abe he appreciates that Japanese auto companies have a presence in US states which will be key to him winning re-election next year.

According to Mr Osuga, Mr Abe told Mr Trump in their meeting that there have been 16 new investments by Japanese companies in the US in the last three months.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Trump, Abe committed to tackling shared security issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe