Posts Tagged ‘Shinzo Abe’

China to seek Japan’s cooperation against U.S. tariffs, sources say

April 15, 2018

‘Ulterior motive’ of imperiling alliance suspected; Abe likely to push Trump on issue at Florida summit


China plans to seek Japan’s cooperation in tackling U.S. restrictions on steel imports at high-level economic talks in Tokyo on Monday, according to sources close to bilateral relations.

Earlier this month, Chinese diplomats told their Japanese counterparts that they wanted to put U.S. steel tariffs on the agenda for the talks and discuss what the two countries could do next together, the sources said Friday.

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A factory worker checks rolls of aluminum in Zouping County in east China’s Shandong province on April 7. | AP

Japan is reluctant to get on the wrong side of the Trump administration due to the importance of maintaining the Japan-U.S. security alliance, they said.

China and Japan will resume an economic dialogue after a hiatus of more than seven years, the latest sign of a thaw in relations.

The tariff issue may also be high on the agenda when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Japan in May for a long-delayed trilateral summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the sources said.

Although Japan has its own worries about the way China conducts trade, it has found itself, alongside China and several other countries, on a list of nations subject to increased tariffs on steel and aluminum products that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out last month.

Other U.S. allies, such as South Korea, have been given exemptions.

Abe is scheduled to meet Trump in the United States in the coming week and is expected to ask Trump to exempt Japan from the tariffs.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who will chair his country’s delegation to Monday’s talks, is expected to raise concerns about a protectionist streak in the Trump administration and call for Japan and China to coordinate in promoting free trade, the sources said.

But a Japanese government source expressed wariness, saying China “likely has an ulterior motive — to win Japan over and weaken” the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who will head the Japanese side, plans to explain Japan’s position to uphold the multilateral international trade system centering on the World Trade Organization.

At the summit with Trump, Abe will propose setting up a new framework to discuss trade issues with the United States, the Nikkei newspaper reported Saturday, in hope of persuading it to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But the move could backfire, as Trump could demand renegotiating terms for the TPP or talks for a bilateral free trade agreement — outcomes Japan wants to avoid.

Trump unexpectedly indicated on Thursday the United States might rejoin the landmark TPP, but only if it offered “substantially better” terms than those provided after previous negotiations.

Abe will make the proposal when he meets Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida resort, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Nikkei said.

Minister of Economy Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi is likely to lead the Japanese delegation, with his counterpart likely to be U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the paper said, without citing sources.

The framework will be separate from a bilateral economic dialogue that was set up by Abe and Trump in 2017 and is led by their deputies. It discusses issues including trade, infrastructure and technical aid.

The dialogue had so far yielded little, with some analysts saying Japan has used it to broaden the agenda and diffuse direct U.S. pressure for a two-way free trade agreement.

A senior government official did not confirm the media report, but said Abe wanted Motegi to accompany him to the U.S. to address trade issues, though this would depend on the situation in the Diet, where the government faces criticism over scandals involving suspected cronyism linked to Abe.

Japanese officials are bracing for Trump to get tough in trade talks at the summit and are particularly anxious that he could target Abe’s weak-yen policies.

Trump tweeted late on Thursday that the United States was working to make a deal with Japan, “who has hit us hard on trade for years!”

In a currency report on Friday, the Trump administration again refrained from naming any major trading partners as currency manipulators but kept Japan on its monitoring list.

Japan, whose export-reliant economy has benefited greatly from global free trade, has long upheld a multilateral framework and has called on Trump to rejoin the TPP.

But it is wary of renegotiating terms because that would mean upending a pact that was forged by 12 nations but went ahead without the United States after Trump withdrew from the TPP in one of his first acts as president.

Tokyo is also cautious about opening a bilateral free trade agreement with Washington for fear of being pressured to open up politically sensitive markets such as farming and automobiles.


Japan PM to visit U.S. from April 17 to 20 for talks with Trump

April 2, 2018


TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit the United States April 17-20 for talks with President Donald Trump, he said on Monday.

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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader, delivers a speech during the LDP annual party convention in Tokyo, Japan March 25, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Abe said he would ask Trump to bring up the issue of past North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens, during the U.S. president’s expected summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping Visit Has Meaning for Japan (And the U.S.)

April 1, 2018


The Japan Times

Conspicuously missing from the North Korean diplomatic charm offensive that has marked 2018 has been overtures toward China. That oversight was rectified this week, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a two-day visit to Beijing. While engagement is to be applauded, we must remain clear-eyed about Pyongyang’s intentions: North Korea is looking for cracks in the united front that it faces. It seeks to exploit and widen them to maximize its bargaining position and minimize concessions in talks that will follow.

The trip was shrouded in secrecy, which is standard fare for North Korean leaders. When Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father, traveled, official confirmation occurred only after he returned home. This time, speculation was triggered by reports of heavy security at the China-North Korea border and train delays in northeast China. Monday afternoon a train that resembled one used by Kim Jong Il pulled into the main Beijing train station. A long motorcade soon departed for the Chinese government guesthouse for visiting officials. The size of the motorcade and the security presence prompted speculation that the visitor was Kim Jong Un, or his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who had led the North Korean delegation to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang last month.


The train left Beijing on Tuesday evening, and only Wednesday did Chinese and North Korean state media confirm that Kim, along with his wife and top aides, had made an “unofficial” visit to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. The visit is thought to be Kim’s first trip abroad since he assumed the leadership of North Korea in 2011 upon his father’s death.

The official North Korean news agency KCNA reported that Kim called the visit a “solemn duty” and added that Kim said, “There is no question that my first foreign visit is to the Chinese capital.” Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, added that Xi replied, “We speak highly of this visit.” Substantively, Xinhua reported that Kim told Xi that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is “starting to get better,” and that North Korea is working to “ease tensions and put forward proposals for peace talks.” Kim added that “it is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il.”

The trip is important for a number of reasons, some obvious, others subtle. Kim’s comfort with leaving his country on the eve of several critical diplomatic overtures indicates that he has no doubts about his control of government. There has been speculation that he had refused to travel for fear of leaving that capital. Plainly, that is not true.

More important is the reassertion of China’s central role in regional diplomacy. Kim has agreed to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April and U.S. President Donald Trump by May. Despite that seemingly full schedule, out of the blue he traveled to Beijing at the invitation of Xi. Xi has leaped to the top of the list of leaders with which Kim is talking and can now claim to have special insight into Pyongyang’s thinking. That is a powerful tool to parry U.S. demands in other areas — such as the newly imposed steel and aluminum tariffs — as well as remind Seoul that Beijing retains significant influence when dealing with the North.

This is an important development for Tokyo. It seems that only one country has been left out of North Korea’s charm offensive: Japan. Pyongyang has resisted Tokyo’s overtures and Japan has struggled to keep pace with developments. In a news conference Tuesday, Foreign Minister Taro Kono was pressed on the Kim visit to Beijing and he could only say that Japan was collecting and analyzing information, and that “we hope to receive a thorough explanation from the Chinese side regarding the developments.” Similarly, the Japanese government only learned that Trump would meet Kim after Trump had agreed to the invitation, prompting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to plan an April visit to Washington to meet Trump and discuss this development and ways to respond. Reportedly, Abe said that he could join a trilateral meeting with Trump and Kim, and he told Moon in a phone call that he is ready for direct talks with Kim.

While a meeting between Abe and Kim would be welcome, it is more likely that Pyongyang will hold off on courting Japan. Tokyo has taken the hardest line against the North and that irritates Kim. Every North Korean overture to another government in the region raises fears in Tokyo that it is being left out. Ignoring Japan increases insecurity here, encouraging doubts about U.S. priorities and the solidity of the alliance. Japan must not allow this strategy to succeed. Close consultations with allies and partners remain vital, to ensure that Japanese interests are protected, even if Tokyo is not at the negotiating table.


  (Wall Street Journal)

 (The New York Times)

Japan and China prepare to revive high-level economic dialogue amid tensions with U.S.

April 1, 2018


April 1, 2018

Japan and China are gearing up to resume high-level economic dialogue later this month after a hiatus of more than seven years, sources close to bilateral relations said Saturday.

The parley, to be held in Japan, is likely to be timed to coincide with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s envisaged visit around April 15, the sources said.

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Wang Yi

The last such dialogue was held in Beijing in August 2010, and it is hoped that a resumption of the dialogue will help deepen a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship between the countries as they mark the 40th anniversary this year of their peace and friendship treaty, they said.

The government has judged that it should pursue a closer relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose recent re-election to a second five-year term as president solidified his grip on power.

Using the May trilateral summit of Japan, China and South Korea as leverage, Tokyo hopes to get a visit to China by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe done by the end of the year and an early one by Xi to Japan to bolster bilateral relations.

For its part, China is apparently eager to drum up Japanese support for its cross-border “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative under a policy of improving ties with Tokyo.

Beijing is also perceived to be interested in getting Japan on its side amid rising tensions over trade issues with the United States.

According to the sources, Japan accepted overtures from China earlier this month to restart economic dialogue on such issues as trade and investment.

The talks would most likely be co-chaired by Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Wang. Other ministers in charge of economic issues from both countries, including Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, are also expected to take part.

During the parley, Tokyo will seek to share the view with Beijing that its “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy” and China’s belt and road project can coexist, and that both can work together to improve infrastructure across Asia, the sources said.

With the United States’ import restrictions on steel and aluminum in mind, the talks could also highlight the importance of free trade.

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The high-level economic dialogue, launched in December 2007, has been put on ice since its third session in Beijing seven and a half years ago.

Tokyo, Beijing and even Taiwan have for years been mired in a territorial dispute in the East China Sea over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which China claims as Diaoyu and Taiwan as Tiaoyutai.

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Senkaku Islands

They have also been at loggerheads over China’s military buildup in contested parts of the South China Sea, with Japan arguing that disputes must be resolved according to international law and that freedom of navigation must be maintained.

China has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea.

Japan does not border the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which over one-third of global trade passes, but relies on shipping channels in the waters.


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Japan’s Abe ‘not involved’ in doctoring documents: key official

March 27, 2018
© AFP / by Miwa SUZUKI, Kyoko HASEGAWA | Nobuhisa Sagawa said his office acted alone

TOKYO (AFP) – A Japanese official at the heart of a cronyism and cover-up scandal that has dented Shinzo Abe’s popularity said Tuesday the prime minister’s office was not involved in falsifying documents.In hotly awaited parliamentary testimony broadcast live on national television, Nobuhisa Sagawa said only his office took part in altering key documents relating to a controversial land sale, potentially easing the pressure on the embattled Abe.

“This is an issue only for the finance bureau (of the ministry) … therefore we never reported outside the finance bureau … not to mention reporting to the prime minister’s office,” said Sagawa, 60.

He added that neither Abe nor his cabinet secretary or finance minister had ordered the alterations.

Sagawa’s testimony came as fresh polls showed public support for Abe’s government plunging by double digits, apparently due to the scandal, amid opposition calls for the prime minister to resign.

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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologizes for a scandal over suspected cronyism and a cover-up that he may have been involved in with his wife….

However, Sagawa declined to answer detailed questioning about how and when documents were altered, saying he was under criminal investigation.

This sparked furious scenes in the normally restrained Japanese parliament, as opposition lawmakers jeered and dismissed the testimony as a waste of time.

“There is no point in us asking more questions,” shouted Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Akira Koike.

– ‘Dire situation’ –

Political analyst Yoshinobu Yamamoto stressed that Abe was not out of the woods yet.

“My gut feeling is that the problem won’t go away with this. I expect further developments ahead …. The public will not think this is the end of this problem,” Yamamoto told AFP.

“His government is in a dire situation but it is not yet bad enough to push him to resign,” he added.

The scandal revolves around the 2016 cut-price sale of state-owned land to a nationalist school operator who claims ties to Abe and his wife Akie.

The row deepened when the finance ministry admitted official records of the sale were altered, with references to Abe, his wife, and Finance Minister Taro Aso scrubbed.

Abe has apologised repeatedly, but denies any wrongdoing and has pledged a thorough investigation.

“I am deeply sorry if this has undermined public trust in civil servants across the nation,” Sagawa said, bowing deeply before MPs.

Sagawa also backed Abe’s assertion that neither he nor his wife were involved in the sale.

– ‘Properly calculated’ –

Sagawa was head of the finance ministry department that oversaw the sale in 2016, and was promoted to head Japan’s tax agency the following year.

He stepped down when the scandal hit national headlines and the opposition has repeatedly sought to bring him before parliament to testify.

Several times last year, Sagawa told MPs the price of the land “was properly calculated” and stressed there was no evidence of political pressure in the sale.

Official documents relating to the sale were apparently later altered to make them consistent with his testimony, according to the finance minister.

The opposition says Sagawa’s testimony “is only a first step towards revealing the whole truth” about the scandal and is pushing for Akie Abe to testify — a request the premier’s ruling party has so far rejected.

The affair took a tragic turn earlier in the month when a finance ministry official involved in the scandal took his own life.

Abe’s popularity has been hammered by the scandal and called into question whether he can still win a party leadership contest this September and become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

His approval rating plunged by 14 percentage points to 42 percent this month, according to a survey published Monday by the business daily Nikkei, with his disapproval rating at 49 percent.

The liberal TV Asahi’s poll Monday said public support dropped by 11.7 percentage points to 32.6 percent.


Japanese PM Shinzo Abe warns North Korea talks could be ploy

March 8, 2018

Japan’s Prime Minister has warned that North Korea’s offer of denuclearization talks with South Korea and the US could be designed to buy time. Beijing urged the US and the North to hold talks as soon as possible.

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, wait for the start of the preliminary round of the women's hockey game between Switzerland and the combined Koreas at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers in Tokyo on Thursday that North Korea’s recent moves to open up dialogue with South Korea and the US could be a ploy.

“I’ve repeatedly said that we have to create a situation of putting maximum pressure on North Korea so that the North wants to have talks with us,” Abe said.

“However … it is true that the North has in the past earned time to develop nuclear capabilities and missiles (during periods of negotiation).

“Talks for the sake of talks are meaningless and we should never loosen sanctions just because North Korea is open to talks.”

Abe’s comments were his first since the recent diplomatic breakthrough between North and South and coincided with Pyongyang ally China urging the US and North Korea to hold talks “as soon as possible,” in the words Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

US President Donald Trump said recently he was open to talks with the North.

Tokyo maintains hardline

Japan’s position has not changed, Abe said, adding that there would be no dialogue with North Korea unless it takes steps toward the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” dismantlement of its nuclear program.

Japan, a long-time US ally in the region, has expressed concern in the past that Trump could settle for a policy compromise that places US homeland security above US security guarantees for Japan.

The fear in particular is that Pyongyang might be persuaded to give up developing its nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic (ICBM) missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, but that the US might in return loosen its stance on shorter-range missiles that can reach Tokyo.

US President Donald Trump at a meeting with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in 2017 (picture alliance/dpa/AP Photo/E. Vucci)US President Donald Trump at a meeting with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in 2017

Pyongyang’s preconditions

Pyongyang said on Thursday it would halt development of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, but that this was dependent on the “US’ attitude,” South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

Special envoys of South Korean President Moon Jae-in met the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week. Chosun reported that the North outlined conditions for halting the North’s ICBM program including establishment of US diplomatic relations and suspending Washington’s deployment of strategic military assets in the South.

A South Korean envoy will brief Abe about his talks with the North when he visits Japan next week.

As two senior Seoul officials left for Washington to brief US officials on their recent visit to the North, Moon warned that many “critical moments” lie ahead before the crisis ends.

jbh/aw (AFP, Reuters, AP)

Trump’s Looming Trade War Has Asian Allies Seeking Peace

March 6, 2018

As Europe threatens retaliation, others pin hopes on the U.S. bending its planned steel, aluminum tariff rules

Trade unions hold a protest in São Paulo, Brazil, against President Donald Trump’s planned steel and aluminum tariffs, March 5. Some countries are promising retaliation but Asia-Pacific allies have so far avoided making similar outright threats. Photo: miguel schincariol/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Some U.S. trading partners are taking heart from suggestions President Donald Trump might leave wiggle room in his steel and aluminum tariffs, leading to a lobbying blitz for exemptions.

In contrast with Europe, U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region so far are avoiding outright threats of retaliation against American goods. They believe that could be counterproductive when Mr. Trump has yet to make his plans final and faces rifts within his own administration and Republican Party about the tariff plans.

Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko said Tuesday he had spoken with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to express concern about Mr. Trump’s plans for a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum. He said Japan was approaching the U.S. in “various forms” to express its view that Japanese steel wasn’t a threat to U.S. national security.

Meanwhile, South Korea dispatched its trade minister, Kim Hyun-chong, to the U.S. on Tuesday for the second time in the past two weeks. Mr. Kim will “strongly request that the U.S. side make South Korean steel exempt” from the tariffs, a ministry statement said. Another South Korean minister sent a letter to Mr. Ross with the same request.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the possible U.S. tariffs with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday Tokyo time, according to Japanese statements. A spokeswoman in Tokyo said the Australian and Canadian leaders initiated the calls and expressed concerns about the U.S. steps, but it wasn’t clear if the leaders discussed plans to coordinate opposition.

The European Union’s executive arm said Friday it had put together a package of penalties affecting $3.5 billion in U.S. exports and named targets including Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon.

Other allies have yet to follow suit in giving specifics. “Japan wants to avoid a negative chain reaction,” said Junichi Sugawara, a researcher at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo who specializes in trade. “They don’t want to cause unnecessary friction” especially since Japan relies on its military alliance with the U.S. for defense.

Over the weekend, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said no country would get a tariff exclusion “at this point in time” but there would be “an exemption procedure for particular cases.” Mr. Sugawara said Mr. Trump might be persuaded to exempt high-value-added products in which Japan specializes, meaning the effects “could be considerably lightened.”

Australia’s trade minister, Steve Ciobo, played down suggestions that Australia could follow Europe and retaliate with tariffs of its own, although he said the country could take steps to prevent dumping of excess Chinese and Korean steel in its own market.

Australian officials said Mr. Turnbull, the prime minister, was assured in a meeting with Mr. Trump last July, on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting, that Australian steel and aluminum would be exempted from U.S. tariffs. Australia exports about 500 million Australian dollars (US$388 million) worth of steel and aluminum to the U.S. each year. The U.S. declined to offer any fresh assurances during Mr. Turnbull’s visit to the White House last month.

Over the weekend, Mr. Turnbull offered a vigorous defense of free trade but avoided criticizing Mr. Trump.

“Protectionism is a dead end,” Mr. Turnbull said. “Protectionism is not a shovel to get you out of the low-growth trap, it’s a shovel to dig it a lot deeper. We are absolutely clear: We want to see more trade, more open markets.”

Japan has also been stressing its leadership role in promoting trade. It pushed through an 11-nation version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal after Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact. The 11 nations, which include Australia and Canada, are set to sign the deal in Chile on Thursday.

In their phone call Tuesday, Messrs. Abe and Trudeau “agreed they will work together to expand the realm of free trade,” a Japanese statement said.

—Kwanwoo Jun in Seoul contributed to this article.

Write to Peter Landers at and Rob Taylor at

Abe to ask South Korean President Moon Jae-in to support evacuation in case of emergency on Korean Peninsula

February 4, 2018


FEB 3, 2018

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will ask South Korean President Moon Jae-in for support in evacuating Japanese citizens if a contingency breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, government sources said.

The decision reflects Japan’s concern that escalating tensions could lead to a military clash between Washington and Pyongyang, possibly after the Winter Games conclude in Pyeongchang, the sources said Friday.

Although tensions have briefly eased in the run-up to the sporting extravaganza, speculation is growing in the Japanese government that North Korea could take action once the United States and South Korea resume joint military drills after the Paralympics conclude on March 18, the sources said.

Abe will pay a two-day visit to South Korea and hold talks with Moon on the sidelines of the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday. It is unclear how Moon might respond. The two are expected to meet for 45 minutes in a hotel near the venue. Abe plans to explain why he feels an evacuation plan is urgently needed and to propose the start of working-level negotiations possibly involving the United States and other countries, the sources said.

Moon is believed to be trying to use sports events to show the international community that tensions with the North are easing. The two Koreas have agreed to march together under a unified Korean flag at the Olympics’ opening ceremony and form a unified women’s ice hockey team.

The Foreign Ministry estimates roughly 38,000 Japanese were residing in South Korea as of October 2016.

“For the safety of the Japanese people, I will firmly request South Korea’s cooperation,” Abe told the Upper House budget committee on Wednesday.

Abe has said other possible topics include trilateral cooperation with the United States to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the 2015 agreement with South Korea on the “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels.

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Tokyo has studied emergency plans to send chartered planes to Seoul and other cities and transport Japanese by land to the southern port city of Busan, where ships would take them to the Japanese mainland via the island of Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture.

Many in the government believe that Self-Defense Force destroyers and aircraft, as well as the U.S. military, would be needed to transport large numbers of Japanese.

Tokyo has told Seoul it would like to discuss the possibility of dispatching SDF personnel to South Korea for evacuations.

With just a week before the Olympics, U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to pressure Pyongyang further over its nuclear arms program by consulting with allies and highlighting the human rights abuses raised by defectors.

Trump hosted about a half-dozen North Korean defectors in the Oval Office on Friday, including Ji Seong-ho, who used crutches to escape the reclusive country after a train ran over his limbs. Days earlier, Ji raised his crutches in triumph when Trump singled him out during his State of the Union address. Trump called the defectors “great people that have suffered incredibly.”

Trump also called Moon and Abe the same day to ask them to keep up the pressure. He suggested that the recent communication between North and South Korea was a positive development.

“They are in dialogue, at least as it concerns the Olympics, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump said.

He avoided some of the inflammatory rhetoric he has used previously, including threatening to unleash “fire and fury” on the rogue nation and dubbing their leader “Little Rocket Man.”

North Korea has not tested a missile since November, and resumed inter-Korean dialogue in January, leading to the agreement on its participation in the games and easing tensions.

Trump has said he is willing to deal with the rising tensions through diplomacy but has also said the United States would use military force if needed. He declared the standoff with the rogue regime “a tricky situation” and again blamed previous administrations for letting the crisis linger for decades.

“We have no road left, so we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “We’re going to find out how it goes. But we think the Olympics will go very nicely, and after that, who knows? We’ll find out. We’ll find out pretty soon, I suspect.”

Japan, China agree on leaders’ visits

January 28, 2018

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Foreign Minister Taro Kono (left) and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, pose for photos before their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Sunday. | AP


 JAN 28, 2018

Japan and China agreed Sunday to resume reciprocal visits by their leaders, underscoring that Asia’s two biggest economies are eager to mend ties in the year marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of a bilateral friendship treaty.

During 2½ hours of talks between Foreign Minister Kono Taro and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing, the two confirmed the importance of mutual visits by their leaders as part of a full-fledged push to improve Sino-Japanese relations, a Japanese government official said.

Kono and Wang also agreed to hold as soon as possible a trilateral summit that also includes South Korea, which Tokyo had wanted to host last year, the Japanese official said. The summit would bring Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Japan for the first time since he took office in 2013.

“We want to improve overall (bilateral) ties this year,” Kono, the first Japanese foreign minister to visit China in about two years, said at the outset of the meeting open to the media.

Kono, who arrived on Saturday, noted the importance of this year as Tokyo and Beijing mark the 40th anniversary of the peace and friendship treaty.

Wang responded by noting that China welcomes Japan’s “strong determination” to improve relations.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have yet to make official visits to their respective countries. This has been due, in part, to the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known in China as the Diaoyu Islands. The tiny islets are administered by Tokyo, but also claimed by Beijing and Taipei, which calls them Tiaoyutai.

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In addition, North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear ambitions were on the agenda at the meeting, with Tokyo and Beijing agreeing to continue working together toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, the Japanese official said.

Tokyo has urged Beijing to exercise its substantial leverage over Pyongyang and play a key role in forcing the country to change its policy.

Meanwhile, Kono lodged a protest over the entry of a Chinese submarine into the contiguous zone around Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus earlier this month, urging Beijing to take steps to prevent this from happening again.

Kono and Wang agreed to make efforts for the early implementation of a Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism in the East China Sea.

Tokyo and Beijing have been mired in a territorial row over the Senkakus for years. The dispute hit a fever pitch after the government led by then-Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda, Abe’s predecessor, decided to effectively put them under state control in September 2012.

J. Berkshire Miller, a senior visiting fellow with the Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo, said that although Beijing and Tokyo pledged to implement crisis management mechanisms in the East China Sea, “neither side has agreed to even the most baseline conflict-avoidance mechanisms.”

Chinese vessels and aircraft, Miller said, were likely to continue to enter the waters and skies surrounding the Senkakus as Beijing continues to diversify its blend of ships, aircraft and tactics in the East China Sea “through the employment of ‘gray zone’ tactics that look to gradually push boundaries without crossing red lines to provoke a united response from Japan and the U.S.”

These tensions, though, appear to have become a “normalized” part of the Sino-Japanese relationship, and bilateral ties look to be improving after both Abe and Xi bolstered their domestic power bases late last year.

In a sign of this improvement, the two nations reached an effective accord on a bilateral social security agreement that would eliminate dual pension payments by Japanese expats in China and vice versa.

Ahead of any Xi-Abe meeting could come a trilateral summit that also involves South Korea. Seoul hosted the previous trilateral meeting in 2015 and Tokyo has been due to host the next one, though a plan to hold it in 2016 was dropped amid political turmoil in South Korea that saw the country’s president at the time, Park Geun-hye, ousted.

The three countries have been rotating summit-hosting duties since 2008, although the gatherings were not held in 2013 and 2014 after a chill in Japan-China relations over the Senkaku dispute.

“While the trilateral summit would be positive, it really needs to be complemented with bilateral visits — ideally both in China and Japan,” said Miller.

Miller said that while a bilateral summit in China might occur before the year’s end, “the realization of a Xi Jinping visit to Tokyo remains a bit more aspirational.”

“Beijing is still holding out likely for some concession or summit achievement, such as progress toward Japan potentially joining the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) or more concrete cooperation on the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative),” he said.

Kono’s trip to China was the first by a Japanese foreign minister since his predecessor, Fumio Kishida, visited in April 2016.

Japan eyes broad accord on new security pact with Australia; Turnbull visit likely in January

December 25, 2017


DEC 25, 2017

Japan and Australia are arranging for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to visit Japan in January, aiming to bolster their bilateral security cooperation by striking a broad agreement on a new pact, government sources said Monday.

The envisioned “visiting forces agreement” is aimed at facilitating joint drills amid the growing military threat from North Korea and China’s maritime assertiveness in the East and South China seas, according to the sources.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull hold bilateral talks in Manila on Nov. 13. | KYODO

The two governments hope an agreement in principle on the pact will be reached at a meeting between Turnbull and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, they said.

Japan views Australia, along with the United States and India, as a vital partner under Abe’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy designed to counter China’s rising activities in waters in the region.

The agreement would allow the two countries to bring military equipment and ammunition onto each other’s soil more easily when the Self-Defense Forces and the Australian military conduct exercises.

In January this year, Tokyo and Canberra signed a revised acquisition and cross-servicing agreement that enables the SDF and the Australian military to supply each other with ammunition.

Unlike the similar Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, the planned accord involving Australia does not presuppose a long-term stationing of the Australian military in Japan.

Japan also aims to reach a similar pact with Britain, with Tokyo and London planning to launch negotiations in the near future.

During the meeting, Abe and Turnbull are also expected to confirm their commitment to putting more pressure on North Korea in cooperation with the United States, the sources said.