Posts Tagged ‘Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’

U.S. sets January trade talks with Japan, targeting ‘tariff and nontariff barriers’

October 17, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to start negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement with Japan in mid-January, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress on Tuesday.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Lighthizer suggested the administration will push Japan to “address both tariff and nontariff barriers” in sectors such as automobiles and agriculture, and to “achieve fairer, more balanced trade.”

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

“We intend to initiate negotiations with Japan as soon as practicable, but no earlier than 90 days from the date of this notice,” he wrote.

Citing the $68.9 billion U.S. trade deficit in goods with Japan in 2017, Lighthizer said, “U.S. exporters in key sectors such as automobiles, agriculture and services have been challenged by multiple tariff and nontariff barriers for decades, leading to chronic U.S. trade imbalances with Japan.”

In a meeting last month in New York, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to start negotiations for a trade agreement on goods, or TAG, between the two countries.

The move is a concession by Tokyo, which dropped its earlier insistence on a multilateral approach to trade issues.

Senior U.S. officials have thrown hardballs even before the start of the trade talks, with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicating the United States will push Japan to reduce tariffs on farm products beyond levels agreed to under a free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union.

Perdue’s call for better terms in a trade deal with Japan than the Japan-EU FTA came despite the understanding between Trump and Abe that Washington would not demand deeper farm tariff cuts than levels Japan has agreed in other trade pacts, also including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member regional FTA.

Vice President Mike Pence has described the prospective deal with Japan as a “free trade agreement,” contradicting Japan’s assertion that the bilateral accord sought by the two governments will not be as comprehensive as an FTA.

The two governments are arranging a meeting between Pence and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in mid-November in Japan to pave the way for the upcoming trade negotiations involving Lighthizer and Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s economic revitalization minister.

Also on Tuesday, Lighthizer notified Congress that the administration intends to initiate negotiations for a trade agreement with the European Union in mid-January, and for a separate pact with Britain “as soon as it is ready after it exits from the European Union on March 29, 2019.”

“We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” the USTR said in a statement.



Russia to hold biggest war games in nearly four decades

August 28, 2018

Russia will next month hold its biggest war games in nearly four decades, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday, a massive military exercise that will also involve the Chinese and Mongolian armies.

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Commander of Western military district Colonel-General Andrei Kartapolov attend the Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg, Russia July 29, 2018. Sputnik/Mikhail Klementyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

The exercise, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018), will take place in central and eastern Russian military districts and involve almost 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all its airborne units, Shoigu said in a statement.

The maneuvers will take place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, which is concerned about what it says is an unjustified build-up of the NATO military alliance on its western flank.

NATO says it has beefed up its forces in eastern Europe to deter potential Russian military action after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine.

The war games, which will take place from Sept. 11-15, are likely to displease Japan which has already complained about what it says is a Russian military build-up in the Far East.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to attend a forum in Vladivostok over the same period, and a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday Tokyo always paid attention to shifts in Russian-Chinese military cooperation.

Shoigu said the war games would be the biggest since a Soviet military exercise, Zapad-81 (West-81) in 1981.

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“In some ways they will repeat aspects of Zapad-81, but in other ways the scale will be bigger,” Shoigu told reporters, while visiting the Russian region of Khakassia.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has said that Chinese and Mongolian military units will also take part in the exercise.


When asked if the cost of holding such a massive military exercise was justified at a time when Russia is faced with higher social spending demands, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such war games were essential.

“The country’s ability to defend itself in the current international situation, which is often aggressive and unfriendly towards our country, means (the exercise) is justified,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

When asked if China’s involvement meant Moscow and Beijing were moving towards an alliance, Peskov said it showed that the two allies were cooperating in all areas.

China and Russia have taken part in joint military drills before but not on such a large scale.

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance on the planned exercise in May and that NATO planned to monitor it. Russia had invited military attaches from NATO countries based in Moscow to observe the war games, an offer he said was under consideration.

“All nations have the right to exercise their armed forces, but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner,” White said in an emailed statement.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”

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Shoigu this month announced the start of snap combat readiness checks in central and eastern military districts ahead of the planned exercise.

“Imagine 36,000 armored vehicles – tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored infantry vehicles – moving and working simultaneously, and that all this, naturally, is being tested in conditions as close as possible to military ones,” Shoigu said on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova and Andrey Kuzmin in Moscow, Robin Emmott in Brussels and Elaine Lies in Tokyo; Editing by Alison Williams


Russian military maneuver Sapad 2017 (picture alliance/AP Photo/Vayar Military Agency)


Trump’s trade war has Asia’s central banks reeling

July 8, 2018

None of the region’s central bankers will emerge unscathed from the adverse impacts of rising tariffs and other proposed trade restrictions

 TOKYO, JULY 8, 2018 10:55 AM (UTC+8)

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An Asian currency exchange board shown on a street at night. Image: iStock/Getty Images

Japan to buy AEGIS Ashore advanced U.S. radar for missile defense system

June 29, 2018

Japan will next week pick a U.S.-made advanced radar for its multibillion-dollar missile defense system, an upgrade that could help ease trade friction with Washington and provide cutting-edge protection against the arsenals of North Korea and China, sources said.

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“Aegis will be a big-ticket purchase; it will be a nice gift for President Trump,” said a Japanese government official, referring to the ground-based Aegis Ashore system.

Japanese officials could make their radar choice as early as Monday for two Aegis Ashore batteries it wants to deploy in 2023. That means the purchase can be added to a defense budget proposal slated for release in August, three sources with knowledge of the plan told Reuters, declining to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

The candidates are Raytheon Co’s (RTN.N) SPY-6 and a version of Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), the sources said. Japan had sought the SPY-6 when it agreed to buy Aegis Ashore last year, but Washington was reluctant to supply it.

The Japanese budget proposal comes amid an easing of tensions following the June 12 meeting in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong un.

Although Japanese military planners still see North Korea as an immediate danger, they view China’s growing military power as a bigger long-term threat.

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force controls an arsenal of hundreds of ballistic missiles that could reach Japan. Upgrades to Japan’s missile defense system would make it one of the world’s most advanced.

Japanese defense officials have estimated the cost of the two Aegis Ashore batteries at about $2 billion. The final tally, including the SPY-6 or LRDR, which can detect targets several times farther away than existing Aegis systems operated by Japan or the U.S., could be at least twice that, the sources said.

Although the upgrade adds expense, it fits with Trump’s stated desire to export more American military hardware.

In a visit to Tokyo in November, he welcomed Japan’s procurement of F-35 stealth fighters and urged Japan to buy more U.S. weapons and goods.

Trump has since cranked up pressure on Tokyo with tariffs on steel, threats of levies on car imports and calls for a bilateral trade deal between the two countries.

At a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June, Trump said Abe had pledged to buy “billions and billions of dollars of additional products of all kinds.”

Abe may meet Trump again around the time of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York in September, a Japanese government official told Reuters. He declined to say what the two leaders would discuss.

Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T) developed Aegis Ashore’s SM-3 Block IIA missiles; Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor.

The SPY-6 radar is designed for the U.S. Navy’s fleet of Aegis-equipped warships. The LRDR will be integrated into the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defence anti-ballistic missile system in Alaska by 2020.

Both cutting-edge radars will allow Japan to make full use of new longer-range interceptors and could be used to defend against any future threat posed by Chinese missiles.

Japan’s military procurement proposals for the year starting April 1 come on the heels of Kim’s pledge in Singapore to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Trump in return ordered a halt to large-scale military drills with South Korea.

Japan, which hosts about 50,000 U.S. military personnel, including the biggest overseas concentration of U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy carrier strike group, has said it would not change its military posture until it see concrete signs that Pyongyang is prepared to permanently dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

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“Aegis Ashore will go ahead because Japan needs it,” one of the sources said.

Reporting by Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo; additional reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Gerry Doyle

U.S. and Japan Moving Quickly Toward Trade Deal

May 15, 2018

The United States and Japan will “move rapidly” to get a trade deal under a new framework aimed at intensifying bilateral trade consultations, U.S. ambassador William Hagerty said, keeping pressure on Tokyo to open up protected markets like agriculture.

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U.S. ambassador William Hagerty

The United States and Japan will “move rapidly” to get a trade deal under a new framework aimed at intensifying bilateral trade consultations, U.S. ambassador William Hagerty said, keeping pressure on Tokyo to open up protected markets like agriculture.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed last month to set up the new framework focusing on bilateral trade led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

“Trade is very important to us. I think we’re going to move rapidly toward getting something done on trade,” Hagerty said at a conference in Tokyo, adding that USTR staff had visited Japan “just this past week” to iron out details.

“The president is, as you know, a man of action and expects us to get results quickly. I think Mr. Abe understands that,” he said.

Analysts say the new framework led by Lighthizer and Motegi could put Japan under direct U.S. pressure to enter talks for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).

Japan is wary of entering such talks and wants to convince Washington to rejoin the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact.

Hagerty said Japan’s focus on TPP would not conflict with Washington’s desire to have a trade agreement with Tokyo, stressing that the United States already has FTAs with six TPP members.

“Those six countries consist more than half of world trade today. There’s only one country to push that to over 90 percent and that’s Japan,” he said.

Motegi said last month Japan won’t sign a bilateral FTA with the United States, and that talks under the new framework won’t begin until mid-June at the earliest.

Japan and the United States remain at loggerheads over how to frame trade talks. Japan is opposed to a two-way trade deal for fear of coming under pressure to open up politically sensitive markets like agriculture.

But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has maintained pressure on Japan, saying Washington wants a bilateral FTA.

Trump pulled the United States out of TPP in early 2017 and has said he won’t consider rejoining unless conditions provided under the pact were far better than before.

Since the United States withdrew from TPP, the other 11 nations have forged ahead with their own agreement. Japan, which signed up for the pact, wants to pass relevant legislation through parliament in the current session running until June 20.

(Reporting by Lei

Read more at–japan-to–move-rapidly–on-trade-deal–hagerty-10235184

North Korea to Shut Down Nuclear Test Site in May

April 29, 2018

Statement from South Korea’s presidential office follows historic talks between the two sides last week — “U.S. strength is going to keep us out of nuclear war.”

South Koreans held a sign depicting of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a rally in Seoul on Thursday. On Sunday, the South Korean president’s office said Pyongyang would close its nuclear test site.
South Koreans held a sign depicting of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a rally in Seoul on Thursday. On Sunday, the South Korean president’s office said Pyongyang would close its nuclear test site. PHOTO: CHUNG SUNG-JUN/GETTY IMAGES

SEOUL—North Korea said it would shut down its nuclear test site by May and take steps to demonstrate the closure to the world, South Korea’s presidential office said Sunday, adding to momentum for a deal on the regime’s nuclear program after last week’s historic talksbetween the two sides.

During a summit meeting Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the inter-Korean demilitarized zone, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also reaffirmed his willingness to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for a security guarantee from the U.S., according to details of their conversations made public by the South’s presidential office.

“Why would we need to live under such difficult conditions with nuclear weapons if we’re able to build trust with the U.S. at future meetings, and the U.S. promises nonaggression and an end to the Korean War?” Mr. Kim was quoted as telling Mr. Moon by Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office.

The comments build on a diplomatic detente between the Koreas ahead of a planned summitbetween Mr. Kim and President Donald Trump, aimed at convincing the regime to relinquish its nuclear arsenal.

During Friday’s meeting, Mr. Kim said that he believed Washington was “inherently hostile” to the North Korean regime, but that he was confident U.S. officials would be convinced he isn’t the “kind of person to launch nuclear weapons towards the U.S.,” according to Mr. Yoon.

The North Korean leader also said at Friday’s summit that “there should never be another war on the Korean Peninsula,” according to Mr. Yoon.

In regard to the North’s nuclear test site, Mr. Kim indicated that his pledge to close the Punggye-ri facility wasn’t because it had become unusable, Mr. Yoon said. Two recent reports by Chinese seismologists concluded that a large part of the test site was unusable due to the collapse of a cavity inside the mountain after the last blast there in September 2017.

“You will see when you come, but there are two bigger tunnels at the site. Those tunnels are fine and well,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying by Seoul’s presidential Blue House.

What Would Peace Look Like on the Korean Peninsula?

The two Koreas have technically been at war for more than six decades. That’s about to change, say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in. But what would peace on the peninsula look like?

Mr. Kim said he would discuss with South Korea the possibility of inviting experts and journalists from the U.S. and South Korea to demonstrate the closure of the site, Mr. Yoon said.

Separately, the North also indicated that it would align its time zone with that of South Korea. Three years ago, Pyongyang shifted its clocks back 30 minutes to send a political message to Seoul and Tokyo.

Mr. Kim said that the time zone decision came to him during his summit with Mr. Moon at the Peace House in the demilitarized zone. “There were two different clocks in the reception hall at Peace House. One was for Seoul time and the other for Pyongyang time, which made my heart heavy,” Mr. Kim said, according to the South. “Let’s first unify the two different times of the two Koreas.”​

Messrs. Trump and Moon spoke by phone for 75 minutes Saturday, with both leaders reaffirming their insistence on the North’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” according to a White House readout of the call.

The two leaders agreed to closely coordinate policy ahead of the U.S.-North Korea summit, to be held in the coming weeks at a venue yet to be determined. South Korea and Mr. Trump have said the possible venues have been narrowed down to two or three locations.

Mr. Trump said the declaration of the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula at the inter-Korean summit last week was welcome news for the world, according to Seoul’s readout of the phone conversation.

How the Historic Inter-Korean Summit Unfolded

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in met in the demilitarized zone separating their countries, planting a tree and committing to pursuing a peace deal. Other scenes from the summit included North Korean security guards jogging alongside their leader’s limousine.

Speaking at a campaign-style rally in Washington Township, Mich., Mr. Trump said he expected to meet with Mr. Kim in the next three or four weeks.

“I’m not going to give you what’s going to actually happen because we don’t really know, but I’ll tell you one thing—we’re not playing games,” he said.

“If we would have said where we are today from three or four months ago, remember they were saying ‘he’s going to get us into nuclear war’,” Mr. Trump said. “Strength is going to keep us out of nuclear war; it’s not going to get us in.”

Write to Jonathan Cheng at and Andrew Jeong at


North Korea’s Kim promises transparency in nuclear site shutdown as Trump presses for full denuclearization

April 29, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to close the country’s nuclear test site in May in full view of the outside world, Seoul officials said on Sunday, as U.S. President Trump pressed for total denuclearization ahead of his own unprecedented meeting with Kim.

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On Friday, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula in the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade, but the declaration did not include concrete steps to reach that goal.

North Korea’s state media had said before the summit that Pyongyang would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, scrap its nuclear test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace.

Kim told Moon that he would soon invite experts and journalists from the United States and South Korea to “transparently open to the international community” the dismantling of the facilities, the Blue House said.

“Kim said if the United States holds dialogue with the North, they would realise that he’s not the kind of person who would fire a nuclear missile toward the South, over the Pacific or targeting the United States,” Moon’s press secretary Yoon Young-chan told a news briefing.

“If the United States meets often and builds trust with us and promises an end of war and non-aggression, why would we lead a difficult life?” Yoon reported Kim as saying.

Kim said there were two additional, larger tunnels that remain “alive and well” at the Punggye-ri test site beyond the existing one, which experts have said had collapsed after repeated explosions, rendering much of the site useless.

Kim’s promise shows his willingness to “preemptively and actively” respond to inspection efforts to be made as part of the denuclearization process, Yoon said.

To facilitate future cross-border cooperation, Kim pledged to scrap the unique time zone Pyongyang created in 2015. He said the North would move its clocks forward 30 minutes to be in sync with the South, nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Kim also reaffirmed that he would not use military force against the South and raised the need for an institutional mechanism to prevent unintended escalations, Yoon said.


Late Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump told Moon in a phone call that he was pleased the leaders of the two Koreas reaffirmed the goal of complete denuclearization during their summit, Seoul officials said on Sunday.

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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) steps with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) across the Military Demarcation Line that divides their countries ahead of their meeting at the official summit Peace House building at Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in sat down to a historic summit Friday after shaking hands over the Military Demarcation Line that divides their countries in a gesture laden with symbolism.

Moon and Trump agreed on the need for an early summit between Trump and Kim, and explored two to three potential locations, the Blue House said.

A senior U.S. official has said Singapore is being considered as a possible venue for the Trump-Kim summit.

“Trump said it was good news for not only the two Koreas but the whole world that they affirmed the goal of realising a nuclear-free Korean peninsula through a complete denuclearization,” South Korea’s presidential Blue House said. “Trump was looking forward to talks with Kim and there would be a very good result.”

Trump, who called the 75-minute chat “a long and very good talk” on Twitter, said his summit with Kim would take place sometime in the next three to four weeks.

“It’s going be a very important meeting, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said at a campaign rally in Washington, Michigan, on Saturday.

The White House said Trump and Moon during the call “emphasized that a peaceful and prosperous future for North Korea is contingent upon its complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

Trump had also informed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would urge North Korea to promptly resolve its abductions of Japanese citizens, the White House said.

Most of the specific commitments outlined in the official declaration signed by Kim and Moon focused on inter-Korean relations and did not clear up the question of whether Pyongyang is willing to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea’s state media on Saturday released the joint statement as part of a multi-page spread with more than 60 photos from the visit, lauding Friday’s summit as a turning point for the peninsula.

It made rare mentions of the denuclearization discussion, but did not go into detail, instead highlighting the broad themes of peace, prosperity, and Korean unity.


“At the talks both sides had a candid and open-hearted exchange of views on the matters of mutual concern including the issues of improving the North-South relations, ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the denuclearization of the peninsula,” KCNA said.

It added that the night wrapped up with a dinner that had an “amicable atmosphere overflowing with feelings of blood relatives.”

The declaration earned guarded but optimistic praise from world leaders, including Trump, who said on Friday that only time would tell, but that he did not think Kim was “playing.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting at the Peace House. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters

“It’s never gone this far. This enthusiasm for them wanting to make a deal … We are going to hopefully make a deal.”

Still, Trump said he would maintain pressure on North Korea and “not repeat the mistakes of past administrations.”

In Sydney on Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Trump’s negotiations on North Korea and said he helped bring the two Korean leaders together.

“I have given him that credit because Donald Trump has taken a very, very strong, hard line on the denuclearization issue and he has been able to bring in the support of the global community and, in particular, China,” Turnbull told a televised news conference, referring to “overwhelming” economic ties between China and North Korea.

“What we’ve now got to do is not relent on the economic pressure until that goal is achieved,” he said.

Australia will send a military aircraft to monitor North Korean vessels suspected of transferring illicit goods in defiance of U.N. sanctions, he said.

Iran, facing a possible U.S. exit from its nuclear deal with world powers, welcomed the inter-Korean summit, but said Washington was not a “qualified” partner in the negotiations.

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“Iran sees (the summit) as an important step in the right direction that can contribute to lasting regional and global peace and security,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state media.

“The U.S. government is not a credible actor, doesn’t comply with its international obligations and doesn’t qualify to take part in arrangements between countries,” Qasemi added.

An editorial in the official China Daily on Saturday said denuclearization could end hostilities between the two sides and “usher in a new era of development” on the peninsula, but noted Friday’s declaration lacked a plan for achieving the goal.

“The denuclearization of the peninsula, written into the Panmunjom Declaration, is only a prospect with no specific plan. That is because such specifics can be reached only between the US and North Korea, and South Korea has only limited authority to bargain,” it said.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Christine Kim and Josh Smith in SEOUL, Amanda Becker in WASHINGTON, Michigan, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Alison Bevege in SYDNEY, and Dubai newsroom. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Susan Thomas

Donald Trump ends his brief flirtation with TPP — Flip-flop on Twitter

April 18, 2018

US president’s second U-turn on Pacific trade adds to pressure on Japan’s Shinzo Abe

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Flip-flop: Shinzo Abe (left) will not be happy with Donald Trump’s rejection onTwitter of the Japanese prime minister’s invitation to the US to rejoin the TPP. The two leaders met with their wives in Florida on Tuesday © Reuters

Shawn Donnan in Washington

Donald Trump brought a quick end to his latest flirtation with rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, turning to Twitter late on Tuesday after a dinner with Japan’s Shinzo Abe to reject Tokyo’s invitation for him to rejoin.

“While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States,” he tweeted. “Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad WTO is to U.S.”

The president’s social media announcement came at the end of the first day of a two-day summit with Mr Abe at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club in Florida. Earlier, the two leaders exchanged pleasantries during an appearance in front of reporters. They are expected to play golf on Wednesday and continue talks on issues including North Korea and trade.

Mr Trump pulled the US out of the TPP on his first full working day in office last January after campaigning against it during his 2016 run to the presidency.

But he last week raised the possibility of rejoining for the second time this year during a meeting with politicians from agricultural states that have been pushing him to avoid starting a trade war with China and to consider re-entering the TPP. Earlier this year he also raised the idea of joining the TPP during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Mr Trump has already given Mr Abe an important victory at the summit by saying he will raise the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang. But Mr Trump’s decision to rule out the TPP, ahead of the second day of talks on trade, is bad news for the Japanese prime minister.

Japan is reluctant to enter bilateral trade talks, suspecting Washington will demand greater concessions than Tokyo gave in the TPP, with little on offer in return. Mr Abe, who prizes his relationship with the president, had hoped to channel Mr Trump’s demands on trade into talks about a return to the TPP. A blunt demand to start bilateral talks instead would place him in a difficult position.

The manoeuvres on the TPP have come as Mr Trump is embroiled in an increasingly tense trade stand-off with China, which was never included in the TPP. US officials have been working on a $100bn list of further tariffs designed to increase the pressure on Beijing. The US and China have each already announced $50bn lists for imports they would target for tariffs.

The 11 remaining members of the TPP led by Japan earlier this year signed the deal into existence. They suspended intellectual property and other contentious provisions sought by the Obama administration when it negotiated the pact when they did so. They have also, however, signalled that they would be open to the US rejoining.

But several TPP members, including Japan, have also indicated in recent days that they would not be open to a major renegotiation of the pact, something the US president had said he would seek.

Why Mr Trump mentioned South Korea is unclear. It is not a member of the TPP, though it has long been seen as a likely candidate to join what many in Washington still see as an important strategic bloc that the Obama administration had viewed as an economic bulwark against a rising China.

Mr Trump has argued since taking office that the US is better served by bilateral trade agreements. But he has yet to launch any such negotiations and Japan is among the countries that have so far resisted his administration’s approaches.

Japan also was pointedly not included in a list of US allies excluded from steel and aluminium tariffs that Mr Trump imposed last month even though the president said he was open to doing so for countries like Japan with which the US has security agreements.

Additional reporting by Robin Harding in Tokyo


Trump Slams TPP Again Ahead of Trade Talks With Japan’s Abe

April 18, 2018

President Donald Trump again soured on the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership ahead of planned trade talks on Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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“While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States,” Trump wrote. “Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad WTO is to U.S.,” he said referring to the World Trade Organization.

Last week, Trump directed U.S. officials to explore returning to the TPP. While his comments were welcomed by members of the trade bloc, ministers from countries including Japan, Australia and Malaysia said they opposed renegotiation of the deal to accommodate the U.S. should it decide to rejoin at a later date.

Abe has been a strong proponent of the TPP. Before leaving for the talks in Florida, he told reporters in Tokyo that Japan and the U.S. should “take the lead on growing the economy of the Indo-Pacific through free and fair trade and investment.”

Pacific Trade Deal Is a Big Deal, With U.S. or Not: QuickTake

The yen declined against all of its Group-of-10 peers on early signs the Trump-Abe meetings won’t see new trade demands from the U.S.

As for South Korea: While the nation isn’t in the TPP, it may look to become a member should the U.S. decide to recommit, Bloomberg Law reported Tuesday, citing a trade ministry official, who was not authorized to be cited.

Japan and China’s foreign ministers pledge to pursue improved ties

April 16, 2018

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Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) shakes hands with Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono at their meeting in Tokyo, Japan April 15, 2018. Behrouz Mehri/Pool via Reuters

OKYO (REUTERS) – Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono and his Chinese counterpart have pledged to improve ties between their nations and affirmed a commitment to stick with U.N. resolutions aimed at forcing North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.

Kono met the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang YiWang Yi, in Tokyo on Sunday, having made his own official visit to Beijing earlier this year.

Wang is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Japan in a bilateral context in the nine years since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to reset the sometimes fraught relations between Asia’s two largest economies.

“Through mutual visits between our two leaders we agreed to pursue wide-reaching cooperation and improved ties,” Kono said after Sunday’s meeting.

Economic ties between Japan and China are close, led by corporate investment. The neighbours remain at odds, however, over China’s growing military presence in the South China Sea, through which much of the region’s sea-borne trade sails, and a dispute over ownership of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Tokyo and the Diaoyu in Beijing.

Wang said his visit was in response to Japan’s positive attitude towards China.

“Since last year Japan has, in relations with China, displayed a positive message and friendly attitude,” he said.

The talks came ahead of a summit between the two Koreas this month and a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump. The U.S-North Korea talks are aimed at ending a stand-off over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

“To establish a complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearisation of North Korea we agreed to continue to fully implement all relevant U.N. resolutions and to work closely together,” Kono said.

Wang, who spent eight years in Japan as a diplomat, including three as China’s ambassador, is scheduled to hold further talks with Kono and other Japanese Cabinet ministers on Monday.

On Tuesday Japanese Self Defense Force officers will meet counterparts from China’s People’s Liberation Army at a reception hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in an effort to build trust between the military rivals.

(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Writing by Tim Kelly and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Sam Holmes and David Goodman)