Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump had his first face-to-face meeting as president-elect with another world leader on Thursday when he spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump Tower in New York City — the first test of Trump’s resolve to stand by caustic campaign rhetoric that left many world leaders questioning his foreign policy agenda.
Following the meeting, Abe told reporters the meeting was “very candid” and that he has “great confidence” in Trump.
“I will be able to establish a relationship of trust,” Abe said. “I conveyed my view on basic issues — I’d like to refrain from touching on details.”
Before departing for New York, Abe told reporters that the U.S.-Japanese alliance “only works based on trust,” signaling that he would be looking for reassurance from Trump that he will remain committed to the relationship. Abe also said he was “honored” to be the first world leader to meet with Trump since the election.
Trump made alarming statements about the alliance during his campaign, including suggestions that Japan procure nuclear weapons and defend itself rather than burden the United States with the cost of stationing tens of thousands of American military personnel on its soil.
“I would rather have them not armed, but I’m not going to continue to lose this tremendous amount of money,” Trump said during a Wisconsin campaign rally in April. “And frankly, the case could be made that … let them protect themselves against North Korea. They’d probably wipe ’em out pretty quick.”
He said that it would a “terrible thing” if Japan and North Korea fought “but if they do, they do.”
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests this year, and two months ago, it produced its largest explosion ever, detonating a bomb that analysts detected had a yield equivalent to 10 kilotons of TNT.
Japan’s pacifist constitution was created in partnership with occupying forces after World War II, and as a result, the nation’s security posture relies heavily on U.S. deterrence. That U.S. military footprint in Japan serves as a deterrent to nuclear-armed North Korea and to a rapidly growing Chinese military.
Japan pays considerable sums (it budgets $4 billion annually, according to The Wall Street Journal) to host over 50,000 American troops and their 40,000 dependents, whose presence, particularly at the Marine base in Okinawa, has become a heated political issue for local residents.
Trump also received heat Thursday from an American congressman of Japanese descent who was angered by statements made by a Trump supporter Wednesday night.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, called on Trump to disavow remarks made on Fox News by author and retired Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, who sought to justify Trump’s controversial plans to single out Muslim immigrants by equating them with the Japanese internment camps of World War II.
“We’ve done it with Iran, back a while ago. We did it during World War II with the Japanese,” Higbie told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. “Look, the president needs to protect America first. And if that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can understand, until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from, I support it.”
“The imprisonment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II, including my parents and grandparents, is widely understood to be one of the darkest chapters in American history,” Takano said in a statement, calling on Trump to denounce the comments.
— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) November 17, 2016
“These comments confirm many Americans’ worst fears about the Trump administration, and they reflect an alarming resurgence of racism and xenophobia in our political discourse,” Takano added.
Trump has accused Japan of manipulating its currency to gain an economic advantage and during a Republican debate listed it, along with China and Mexico, as an example of how “we are getting absolutely crushed on trade.”
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