Trump seeks better economic ties with Tokyo

14:51 | 08/11/2017 Global Economy

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he would discuss how to improve economic ties between America and Japan, saying that “Japan has been winning” on trade in recent decades.

U.S. President Donald Trump departs after a round of golf with Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Japan November 5, 2017 - Photo by Reuters

Trump was speaking in Tokyo on the second day of a 12-day Asian trip expected to be dominated by North Korea and trade.

Trump also told Japanese business leaders Washington wants to make the United States the most attractive place to hire, invest and grow. The U.S. leader, who met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday for golf, lunch and dinner, will hold a more formal summit meeting with Abe on Monday.

Golf diplomacy

Abe told reporters before Trump’s arrival that he welcomed the visit as a chance to deepen bilateral ties by building on the “friendship and trust” between the two leaders, fostered by several meetings that included a round of golf in Florida earlier this year.

“I hope we will be able to have thorough discussions about international issues, including North Korea,” he said.

Trump and Abe greeted each other with a handshake at a golf course to be used during the 2020 Olympic Games, changing clothes and heading out to play after what media said was a lunch of hamburgers. In an allusion to a Trump campaign slogan, they signed caps that said “Donald and Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater.”

They discussed North Korea and trade while playing nine holes with Hideki Matsuyama, the world no. 3 pro golfer.

A senior White House official said the two leaders have developed a close bond since Trump took office in January.

“Playing golf with Prime Minister Abe and Hideki Matsuyama, two wonderful people!” Trump tweeted. For his part, Abe took to Twitter to say he played golf “with a marvellous friend (President Donald J. Trump) full of spirited conversation.”

The two leaders and their wives later dined on grilled Japanese premium beef at an upscale restaurant.

In brief pre-dinner remarks, Trump said U.S.-Japan ties were closer than ever. But he added: “We’ll have dinner tonight. I think we’ll insult everybody by continuing to talk about trade.”

Trump also said he planned to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during his trip, the longest Asian tour by any U.S. leader since George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Trump wants a united front with the leaders of Japan and South Korea against North Korea before he visits Beijing to make the case to Chinese President Xi Jinping that he should do more to rein in Pyongyang.

Separately, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed that “now is the time to apply firm pressure on North Korea,” Kono told reporters.

A senior U.S. State Department official traveling with Tillerson said the pressure was having an effect.

“I think we have a better chance now than we’ve had in the last couple of decades to solve this problem because the most important thing is to have the international community completely united in order to really choke off the lifeline for North Korea. It’s got to be the way,” the official said.

Theo Vnexpress/Reuters