Abe and Trump’s Friendship without Benefits

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On 17–18 April 2018, US President Donald Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The pair’s personal rapport was emphasised throughout Abe’s visit to the United States. Trump and Abe addressed each other with their first names and emphasised the closeness of their personal relationship whenever they appeared before the media. But the optics aside, it was the first time Abe met with Trump to discuss potentially contentious policy issues.

Two issues loomed particularly large during the summit, the first of which was North Korea. Tokyo received with great surprise the announcement on 8 March that Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. On the one hand, Abe would have wanted to remind Trump of Japan’s steadfast support for the United States’ ultimate goal of denuclearising North Korea. On the other hand, Abe also needed to articulate that he should be consulted before Trump reaches any agreement with Kim on denuclearisation. From the Japanese perspective, any US–North Korea agreement must address the threat to the region posed by North Korea’s short- and medium-range missiles. North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens is another issue that Abe cannot overlook.

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on April 25, 2018. Read the full article here.

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