Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday he was confident of building trust with Donald Trump following a meeting in which he sought clarity on campaign rhetoric from the U.S. president-elect that cast doubt on long-standing US alliances. After the hastily arranged 90-minute meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Abe called Trump a trustworthy leader, although he said he would not disclose details of the conversation because the talks were unofficial.
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The Republican president-elect will succeed Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20. “The talks made me feel sure that we can build a relationship of trust,” Abe told reporters. Describing his conversation as “candid” and held in a “warm atmosphere,” Abe said: “Alliances cannot function without trust. I am now confident that President-elect Trump is a trustworthy leader.” He said he had agreed to meet again with Trump “at a convenient time to cover a wider area in greater depth.” It was not clear if such a meeting would occur before Trump’s inauguration.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters on Friday in Tokyo that it was beneficial for Abe to meet Trump before he becomes president, given that Japan-US relations were vital to both countries. The conversation came as Japan’s leadership was nervous about the future strength of an alliance that is core to Tokyo’s diplomacy and security.
Abe and other Asian leaders were alarmed at Trump’s pledge during his election campaign to make allies pay more for help from U.S. forces, his suggestion that Japan should acquire its own nuclear weapons and his staunch opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.