Posts Tagged ‘Shinzo Abe’

Japan protests Russian military buildup plan in decades-old islands dispute

February 23, 2017

Reuters

Thu Feb 23, 2017 | 2:20am EST

Japan has protested to Russia over its plan to boost troop strength on disputed islands, Japan’s top government spokesman said on Thursday, the latest move in a territorial row that has overshadowed ties since World War Two.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference the government was closely monitoring Russia’s actions and analyzing information.

“If the move leads to the reinforcement of Russian military on the islands, it would be incompatible with Japan’s stance and it is regrettable as they are inherently our territory,” he said.

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Suga made the comment after media reports that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu talked about a plan to deploy a military division to the islands, including areas Japan claims as its territory, this year.

The islands in the Western Pacific, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War Two when 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee.

Suga said Russia’s military plan would be on the agenda when defense and foreign ministers from the two countries are due to meet in Tokyo on March 20.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin met last December and struck numerous economic deals but failed to achieve a breakthrough on the islands.

Abe is expected to visit Russia this year to speed up talks to resolve the dispute and try to conclude a peace treaty officially ending World War Two hostilities.

He has pledged to resolve the dispute in the hope of leaving a significant diplomatic legacy and building better ties with Russia to counter a rising China.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Trump’s Currency Complaints Hit Unexpected Targets

February 17, 2017

Top-five trading partners China, Japan and Germany brush them off; Taiwan and Switzerland seem to be paying heed

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Feb. 17, 2017 3:47 a.m. ET

HONG KONG—U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusations of currency manipulation appear to be reaching an audience he may not have primarily intended.

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies,…

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies , while his top trade adviser Peter Navarro has accused Germany of benefiting from what he termed the “grossly undervalued” euro .

All three countries, which rank among the U.S.’s top five trading partners, have brushed off the Trump administration’s claims.

“No one has the right to tell us that the yen is weak,” Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso told parliament on Wednesday, following last weekend’s meeting between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe . Japan hasn’t directly intervened in currency markets since 2011 following a major tsunami and resulting Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“The charge that Germany exploits the U.S. and other countries with an undervalued currency is more than absurd,” Jens Weidmann , the president of the German central bank, said earlier this month.

China hasn’t directly commented on Mr. Trump’s criticisms, but most analysts say Beijing recently has been propping up the yuan by selling foreign-currency reserves rather than looking to weaken it.

Still, some smaller economies look like they are taking notice, notably Taiwan and Switzerland. The U.S. Treasury found in October that both had engaged in persistent, one-way currency intervention, essentially by buying foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar and selling their own to maintain weak exchange rates.

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Analysts say the central banks of Switzerland and Taiwan are now stepping back from those activities, perhaps to avoid closer scrutiny from the Trump administration. The upshot: The Swiss franc has advanced nearly 2% against the U.S. dollar this year, while the new Taiwan dollar has surged 5.3%. Both have outperformed the euro and yen since the U.S. election in early November.

Taiwan’s central bank bought $500 million in foreign currencies in the fourth quarter, well below its quarterly average of more than $3 billion since 2012, according to Khoon Goh , head of Asia research at ANZ in Singapore, who said he suspects it is stepping back from “currency-smoothing operations.” The central bank said it doesn’t comment on currency policy.

For the first nine months of last year, the Swiss National Bank /quotes/zigman/1379668/delayed CH:SNBN +0.12% intervened heavily in currency markets to slow the franc’s rise, spending an amount roughly equivalent to its current-account surplus for the period, J.P. Morgan/quotes/zigman/272085/composite JPM -0.76% analysts note. Over the following four months, the scale dropped to around two-thirds of the surplus.

“It’s not an entirely fanciful suggestion that the SNB might be tapering intervention in order to the guard against the risk of being cited by the U.S. Treasury as a currency manipulator,” the analysts wrote in a note.

The Swiss National Bank declined to comment.

For the U.S. to label an economy a currency manipulator under the current law, it must have a large trade surplus with the U.S. and a hefty current-account surplus and persistently intervene in the currency in one direction. As of October, no economies met all three criteria.

Recent comments from officials in South Korea, which the Treasury has flagged for its hefty trade surplus with the U.S. and its current-account surplus, suggest they’re similarly eager to avoid U.S. ire, says Govinda Finn , senior analyst at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh. The Korean won has surged 5.2% against the dollar this year.

But any gains in the Korean and Taiwanese currencies due to U.S. political pressure may not last, he said: “On a longer-term horizon, there’s a pretty strong case to say both of those currencies can and will weaken as the authorities look to support their economies.”

Jenny W. Hsu contributed to this article.

Write to Saumya Vaishampayan at saumya.vaishampayan@wsj.com

Asia markets dip as Trump rally takes a break

February 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Tokyo ends the morning 0.6 percent lower as stock markets across Aisa also dropped

HONG KONG (AFP) – The rally in Asian markets petered out Thursday, while the dollar also dipped as investors brushed off another record Wall Street close and upbeat US data to cash in profits.Another positive assessment of the US economy and reassurance over tax reform from President Donald Trump was not enough to spur further buying in Asia after the past week’s rally.

New York’s three main indexes pressed on with their surge, racking up a fifth successive day of record closes, after figures showed US inflation hit a four-year high in January, fuelling bets on an interest rate hike soon. Also, Trump said Wednesday he would release specifics on his new tax plan in the “not-too-distant future”, adding it will be “good and simpler”.

His remarks came less than a week after he promised “phenomenal” reforms to the tax system, spurring a surge in global markets and the dollar.

The strong numbers highlight that the US economy is in fairly healthy shape,? Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader, said in a note.

The key is the data and president Trump’s recommitment to the release of the tax plan everyone is waiting for,? McKenna said.

Federal Reserve Yellen also reiterated her view to Congress that the world’s top economy was on a strong growth track, a day after indicating borrowing costs to increase any time soon — leading to speculation of a move as soon as March.

However, the greenback was unable to push on with its gains and in early Asian trade was down against its major peers as well as higher-yielding currencies in the Asia-Pacific such as the Australian dollar and South Korea’s won.

Regional stock markets were also in the red. Tokyo ended the morning 0.6 percent lower while Shanghai and Hong Kong were each down 0.1 percent and Sydney and Seoul both gave up 0.2 percent.

Wellington lost one percent and Taipei eased 0.2 percent.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 19,318.36 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.1 percent at 23,982.48

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,210.99

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0612 from $1.0602

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2460 from $1.2459

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 114.07 yen from 114.18 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN four cents at $53.07 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN two cents at $55.73

New York – Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 20,611.86 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 7,302.41 (close)

North Korea ‘successfully’ fires ballistic missile — A Test for President Donald Trump administration — UN Security Council to meet

February 13, 2017

M North Korea ‘successfully’ fires ballistic missile in first test of Trump administration

 North Korea ‘successfully’ fires ballistic missile — A Test for President Donald Trump administration — UN Security Council to meet
North Korean Defence Minister Hyon Yong-Chol with Kim Jong-Un in February
North Korean defence minister Hyon Yong-Chol with Kim Jong-Un in February CREDIT: AFP 

Donald Trump faced his first major foreign policy challenge as president on Sunday following the launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea – a launch likely timed to coincide with the visit of Japan’s prime minister to the United States.

Mr Trump and Shinzo Abe, his Japanese counterpart, hastily convened a press conference late on Saturday night to condemn the test.

Mr Abe called the launch “absolutely intolerable” and said North Korea must comply with UN Security Council resolutions.

Mr Trump added: “I just want everybody to understand, and fully know, that the United States of America is behind Japan, our great ally, 100 per cent.”

Watch | Trump: US stand behind Japan 100 per cent

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He made no further comments, and critics pointed out that it was strange he made no mention of North Korea by name, or move to reassure South Korea, a key US ally.

China, which Mr Trump has accused of neglecting to rein in North Korea, is yet to respond.

Mr Trump’s relationship with Beijing got off to a rocky start when he took a phone call from the leader of Taiwan and questioned the One China policy – Beijing’s belief that Taiwan is part of China.  But on Thursday Mr Trump spoke to Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, in a bid to repair ties. And the new administration is likely to step up pressure on China to rebuke North Korea, an official told Reuters.

“This was no surprise,” the official said. “The North Korean leader likes to draw attention at times like this.”

North Korea confirmed on Monday that it “successfully” launched a “surface-to-surface medium-to-long-range ballistic missile”.

State-run KCNA news said that leader Kim Jong-un supervised the test of the Pukguksong-2, a new type of strategic weapon capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The United States, Japan and South Korea requested urgent UN Security Council consultations on the test, an official in the US mission to the United Nations said following the confirmation. A meeting was expected on Monday afternoon, the official said in a statement.

KCNA said the missile was fired at a high angle in consideration of the safety of neighbouring countries. A South Korean military source said on Sunday the missile reached an altitude of 550 km (340 miles).

It flew a distance of about 500 km, landing off its east coast, towards Japan.

Mr Trump has vowed to take a tougher line on North Korea than Barack Obama, criticising his predecessor for being weak.  He pledged a more assertive approach to the rogue nation but has given no clear sign of how his policy would differ from Mr Obama’s so-called strategic patience.

In January, after Kim Jong-un said the North was close to testing an ICBM, Mr Trump tweeted: “It won’t happen!”

He has floated the idea of allowing South Korea and Japan to have nuclear weapons in response – an he now appears to have dismissed.

Stephen Miller, senior adviser to Mr Trump, refused on Sunday to say whether the missile launch crossed a “red line” for the president. But he said the US was determined to support its allies and maintain a robust military.

“We are going to reinforce and strengthen our vital alliances in the Pacific region as part of our strategy to deter and prevent the increasing hostility that we’ve seen in recent years from the North Korean regime,” he said.

“These are complex and difficult challenges. And that’s why President Trump is displaying the strength of America to the whole world and it’s why we’re going to begin a process of rebuilding our depleted defence capabilities on a scale we have not seen in generations.”

The missile was launched from an area called Panghyon in North Korea’s western region just before 11pm GMT on Saturday, and flew about 300 miles, the South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“Our assessment is that it is part of a show of force in response to the new US administration’s hardline position against the North,” the South Korean military said.

“These tests happen on a fairly regular basis,” said Jim Walsh, an international security analyst at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“But it’s hard not to see it as a challenge to both Mr Trump and Mr Abe – a two for one, if you want.”

He said Mr Trump was wise not to rush to react.

“When you don’t have a lot of great options in your hands, it’s best to say less rather than more.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/12/north-korea-fires-ballistic-missile-first-test-trump-administration/

Kim Jong Un Rattles The World With Latest Ballistic Missile Test

February 12, 2017

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Kim Jong Un

North Korea has test fired a missile toward the Sea of Japan – the first since Donald Trump became US president. The launch came as the Japanese premier was on an official visit to the US.
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The projectile was launched at 7:55am local time Sunday (2255 UTC on February 11) from Banghyon air base in the western North Pyongan Province – just days before the North is to mark the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un’s late father, Kim Jong Il.

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South Korea’s Defense Ministry in Seoul said that the object flew east towards the Sea of Japan. The missile is believed to have dropped into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile did not reach Japanese territorial seas.

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South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the South Korean and the US militaries were conducting a close-up analysis of the object, which reportedly managed to travel a distance of about 500 kilometers (300 miles).

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Trump and Abe signaled that they were resolute on fighting political provocations coming from North Korea

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Trump and Abe signaled that they were resolute on fighting political provocations coming from North Korea. Reuters photo

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An official from South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was not clear whether the projectile was indeed a ballistic missile. Officials added that the North had launched its powerful midrange Musudan missiles on October 15 and 20, 2016, from that location, raising the likelihood that it was a missile. The South Korean Yonhap news agency reported, however, that it was not believed to be an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile).

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A US Strategic Command spokesperson later confirmed this, identifying the missile as a medium- or intermediate-range ballistic one that did not pose a threat to the United States. However, the spokesperson added that the US “remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security.”

 

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The launch of the missile coincided with a visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the US to meet with President Donald Trump. In the light of what the Trump administration referred to as a “provocation,” Trump said that the US stood “100 percent” behind Japan. Abe had earlier condemned the missile launch.

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Trump and Abe signaled that they were resolute on fighting political provocations coming from North Korea. Reuters photo

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US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn meanwhile spoke to his South Korean counterpart Ki Kwan-jin, agreeing to explore all possible options to keep the North in check. Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suge called the launch “absolutely intolerable” – especially seeing that the missile “was launched immediately after the Japan-US summit.”

 

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Kim Jong Un announced that in the run-up to his late father’s birthday there would be be unexpected maneuvers

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Suge announced that Japan would protest the North Korean missile launch through diplomatic routes – via China. As Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally, China is key to any effort to rein in North Korea’s controversial missile program.

 

Passengers watch a TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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South Korean acting president Hwang Gyo-Ahn vowed a “corresponding punishment” in response. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued the statement in response, saying the missile test was a “blatant and obvious” violation of existing UN Security Council resolutions and a “serious threat” to international security. The Trump administration mentioned that further sanctions were still likely, a statement welcomed by observers in South Korea.

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However, despite the cooperation, Trump has been stumbling as he tries to balance his official policy on Asia. His immediate withdrawal from the TPP trade agreement upon assuming office made for a difficult start in cross-Pacific relations. The meeting with Abe, his recent announcement that he would support China’s “one China” policy in regard to Taiwan and his tough stance on North Korea have, however, started to cast the US leader in a more favorable light in the region.

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On a war footing?

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South Korea’s military called the launch a “show of force” by North Korea against the administration of US President Donald Trump and his hardline stance on Pyongyang.
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North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and a number of rocket launches last year in ongoing efforts to apparently expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had said in his annual New Year’s address that the North’s preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile had “reached the final stage.”
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cmb, ss/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)
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http://www.dw.com/en/north-korea-fires-test-missile-toward-sea-of-japan/a-37515513

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Related:

Japan Condemns North Korea Missile Launch; Trump Says U.S. Supports Ally ‘100%’

February 12, 2017

Experts say missile was likely capable of reaching American bases in Japan and Guam

Updated Feb. 11, 2017 11:57 p.m. ET

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—President Donald Trump, in a statement late Saturday in response to a North Korean missile launch, gave no indication of how the U.S. would respond but said the nation stands with its ally, Japan, “100%.”

North Korea launched the missile while Mr. Trump was hosting the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, at his Mar-a-Lago estate. In a brief joint appearance, Mr. Abe said the missile launch is “absolutely intolerable” and called upon North Korea to “fully comply with the relevant [United Nations] security resolutions.”

In an undated photo provided by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tours a machine plant in Pyongyang. On Sunday morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile of its east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

In an undated photo provided by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tours a machine plant in Pyongyang. On Sunday morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile of its east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. PHOTO:KCNA VIA REUTERS
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In his appearance Saturday, Mr. Trump spoke just one sentence supporting Japan and didn’t signal any retaliatory plans.

In his statement, Mr. Trump said: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, it’s great ally, 100%.”

Neither men took questions from reporters who were hastily assembled for the appearance. Mr. Trump said Friday that the U.S. government and Japan would work closely together to defend “against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat.”

North Korea launched the missile off its east coast at 7:55 a.m. Seoul time on Sunday, in what officials in Japan and South Korea saw as both a provocation and a test of U.S. and Japanese responses.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) before landing in waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

“We suspect North Korea demonstrated a show of force in order to test the Trump administration and U.S. responses,” said a South Korean military official who declined to be identified.

The Defense Department’s U.S. Strategic Command systems detected and tracked the launch of a medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missile at about 6 p.m. EST, according to a statement from U.S. Strategic Command. The missile was launched near the northwestern city of Kusong and was tracked over North Korea and into the Sea of Japan, where it landed, the statement said.

“The North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” the statement said.

South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn said he and the government would push for a strong international response to punish North Korea for its test launch, according to a statement from his office.

Kim Kwan-jin, South Korea’s director of national security, convened a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Security Council in response, a spokesman for the South Korean president’s office said. Mr. Kim also spoke by phone on Sunday with Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, the South Korean president’s office said.

Experts said that the missile was likely one of North Korea’s so-called Musudan intermediate-range missiles, which are capable of reaching U.S. bases in Japan and Guam. The North has attempted to test the Musudan missile from the same launch site in the past, failing several times last year, though it claimed a successful test launch of the Musudan from a mobile launcher in June last year.

In a new-year address last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that the country was close to test launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would bring the North closer to being able to send a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.

North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!

“It won’t happen!” Mr. Trump wrote a day later on his Twitter account, taking a tough stance toward North Korea’s nuclear ambitions before his inauguration. Earlier this month, Mr. Trump sent Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to Seoul and Tokyo, where he promised an “effective and overwhelming” response to any use of nuclear weapons against America or its allies.

Mr. Mattis also told the South Korean defense chief that the U.S.’s defense commitment was “ironclad” in the face of Pyongyang’s “threatening rhetoric and behavior.”

During Mr. Mattis’s visit, both Seoul and Washington pledged to carry out deployment this year of a U.S. missile defense system on South Korean soil meant to counter North Korea’s mounting missile capabilities. The pledge came despite objections from the Chinese government, who see the radar system as aimed at them.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump voiced criticism of America’s defense agreement with Japan. At a rally in August he questioned the fairness of defense treaties that, he said, commit the U.S. to protecting Japan while allowing the Japanese to stay home and watch “ Sony television” if the U.S. is attacked.

Mr. Abe, though, said that during their summit meeting Mr. Trump had assured him the U.S. was committed to Japan’s security.

He said the two nations “would further reinforce our alliance.”

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com, Kwanwoo Jun at kwanwoo.jun@wsj.com and Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-korea-fires-ballistic-missile-off-east-coast-south-korea-says-1486860355

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Abe condemns North Korea missile launch; Trump says U.S. stands by Japan ‘100 percent’

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President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe make statements about North Korea at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

– Associated Press – Saturday, February 11, 2017
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is condemning North Korea’s latest missile launch as “absolutely intolerable” and President Donald Trump is assuring Japan that the U.S. stands behind it “100 percent.”

Abe and Trump appeared together for a statement Saturday night following reports that North Korea fired a ballistic missile in what would be its first such test of the year.

In a ballroom at Trump’s south Florida estate, Abe read a brief statement in which he called on the North to comply fully with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. He said Trump has assured him of U.S. support and that Trump’s presence showed the president’s determination and commitment.

Trump followed Abe with even fewer words, saying in part: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.”

Related:

North Korea tests ballistic missile; U.S. to avoid escalation — Expected to pressure China to rein in North Korea

February 12, 2017

Sun Feb 12, 2017 | 2:01am EST

Passengers watch a TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
By Ju-min Park and Matt Spetalnick (Reuters) | SEOUL/WASHINGTON

North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea early on Sunday, the first such test since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington would have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions.

The test was of a medium- or intermediate-range missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to the U.S. defense department, not an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which the North has said it could test at any time.

The launch marks the first test of Trump’s vow to get tough on an isolated North Korean regime that last year tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate in violation of United Nations resolutions.

A U.S. official said the Trump administration had been expecting a North Korean “provocation” soon after taking office and will consider a full range of options in response, but these would be calibrated to show U.S. resolve while avoiding escalation.

The new administration is also likely to step up pressure on China to rein in North Korea, reflecting Trump’s previously stated view that Beijing has not done enough on this front, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This was no surprise,” the official said. “The North Korean leader likes to draw attention at times like this.”

The latest test comes a day after Trump held a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and also follows Trump’s phone call last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I just want everybody to understand, and fully know, that the United States of America is behind Japan, our great ally, 100 percent,” Trump told reporters in Palm Beach, Florida, speaking alongside Abe. He made no further comments.

Abe called the launch “absolutely intolerable” and said North Korea must comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

China is North Korea’s main ally but has been frustrated by Pyongyang’s repeated provocations, although it bristles at pressure from Washington and Seoul to curb the North and its young leader, Kim Jong Un.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump and his aides are likely to weigh a series of possible responses, including new U.S. sanctions to tighten financial controls, an increase in naval and air assets in and around the Korean peninsula and accelerated installation of new missile defense systems in South Korea, the administration official said.

But the official said that given that the missile was believed not to have been an ICBM and that Pyongyang had not carried out a new nuclear explosion, any response will seek to avoid ratcheting up tensions.

“IT WON’T HAPPEN”

Trump has pledged a more assertive approach to North Korea but given no clear sign of how his policy would differ from Obama’s so-called strategic patience. In January, Trump tweeted “It won’t happen!” after Kim said the North was close to testing an ICBM, but his aides never explained how he would do so.

The missile was launched from an area called Panghyon in North Korea’s western region just before 8 a.m. (2300 GMT Saturday) and flew about 500 km (300 miles), the South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“Our assessment is that it is part of a show of force in response to the new U.S. administration’s hardline position against the North,” the office said in a statement.

A South Korean military source said the missile reached an altitude of about 550 km and was probably a medium-range Rodong, which the North has successfully test-fired numerous times in recent years, or a previously unknown new type, given the unusually high trajectory.

The North tried to launch an intermediate-range Musudan missile eight times last year but most attempts failed. One launch that sent a missile 400 km (250 miles), more than half the distance to Japan, was considered a success by officials and experts in the South and the United States.

Kim said in his New Year speech that the country was close to test-launching an ICBM and state media have said such a launch could come at any time.

The comments prompted a vow of an “overwhelming” response from U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis when he traveled to South Korea earlier this month.

Once fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental United States, which is about 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from North Korea. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 km (3,400 miles), but some are designed to travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles) or more.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and numerous missile-related tests last year and was seen by experts and officials to be making progress in its weapons capabilities, although until Sunday no ballistic missile launch attempt had been detected since October.

Its repeated missile launches prompted Washington and Seoul to agree to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile battery in South Korea later this year, which is strongly opposed by Beijing, which worries the system’s powerful radar undermines its own security.

Sunday’s launch comes at an awkward time for South Korea, where President Park Geun-hye has been stripped of her powers after a December parliamentary vote to impeach her. Her fate will be decided by the Constitutional Court, which is hearing arguments on whether to uphold or overturn the impeachment.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul, Phil Stewart in Washington, Ayesha Rascoe and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Palm Beach, Elaine Lies in Tokyo, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Tony Munroe and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Trump hugs ally Japan after easing US-China tensions

February 11, 2017

By Matthew Pennington
The Associated Press

President Donald Trump, Japanese prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie, board Air Force One. AP photo by Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump, fresh off patching up ties with China, reassured Japan’s leader Friday that the U.S. will defend its close ally. Together, the pronouncements illustrated a shift toward a more mainstream Trump stance on U.S. policy toward Asia.

Welcoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House with a hug, Trump said he wants to bring the post-World War II alliance with Japan “even closer.” While such calls are ritual after these types of meetings, from Trump they’re sure to calm anxieties that he has stoked by demanding that America’s partners pay more for their own defense.

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Abe, a nationalist adept at forging relationships with self-styled strongmen overseas, was the only world leader to meet the Republican before his inauguration. He is now the second to do so since Trump took office. Flattering the billionaire businessman, Abe said he would welcome the United States becoming “even greater.”

He also invited Trump to visit Japan this year. Trump accepted, according to a joint statement.

Other leaders of America’s closest neighbors and allies, such as Mexico, Britain and Australia, have been singed by their encounters or conversations with Trump.

But the optics Friday were positive. After a working lunch on economic issues, the two leaders boarded Air Force One with their wives for a trip to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. They dined with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the club Friday night. Trump and Abe are scheduled to play golf Saturday.

Their Oval Office meeting came hours after Trump reaffirmed Washington’s long-standing “one China” policy in a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That statement will similarly ease anxieties in East Asia after Beijing was angered and other capitals were rattled by earlier suggestions that he might use Taiwan as leverage in trade, security and other negotiations.

Although Japan is a historic rival of China, Trump said that his long and “warm” conversation with Xi was good for Tokyo, too.

“I believe that will all work out very well for everybody, China, Japan, the United States and everybody in the region,” Trump said at a joint news conference with Abe.

Stepping carefully into Japan’s longstanding territorial dispute with China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, Trump said the U.S. is committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control. The implication was that the U.S.-Japan defense treaty covers the disputed islands, which Japan which calls the Senkaku, but China calls the Diaoyu.

Beijing opposes such statements, but Trump’s wording allowed for some diplomatic wiggle room. The joint statement released later was more explicit, however, in spelling out the U.S. commitment.

 

Abe has championed a more active role for Japan’s military. He has eased constraints imposed by the nation’s pacifist post-war constitution and allowed forces to defend allies, even if Japan itself is not under attack.

As a candidate, Trump urged even greater self-reliance, at one point even raising the notion of Japan and South Korea developing their own nuclear weapons as a deterrent to North Korea.

He made no similar remark Friday, and according to Japanese officials, did not raise the issue of cost-sharing for defense. Instead he thanked Japan for hosting nearly 50,000 American troops, which also serve as a counterweight to China’s increased regional influence. He said freedom of navigation and dealing with North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats are a “very high priority.”

There was less agreement on economics.

One of Trump’s first actions as president was to withdraw the U.S. from a 12-nation, trans-Pacific trade agreement that was negotiated by the Obama administration and strongly supported by Tokyo.

Diverting from Trump’s stance that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is bad for America, Abe stressed the importance of a “free and fair common set of rules” for trade among the world’s most dynamic economies.

“That was the purpose of TPP. That importance has not changed,” Abe said through an interpreter, though both leaders held out the possibility of a future bilateral, U.S.-Japanese deal.

Trump has also criticized Toyota Motor Corp. for planning to build an assembly plant in Mexico and has complained Japanese don’t buy enough U.S.-made cars — though on Friday, Japanese government spokesman Norio Maruyama said Trump expressed appreciation to Abe for Japanese investment in the U.S. and looked forward to it expanding.

Abe told U.S. business leaders Friday that “a whopping majority” of the Japanese cars running on American roads are manufactured in the U.S. by American workers. That includes 70 percent of Toyotas. Abe said Japanese business supports some 840,000 jobs in the United States.

That may not be enough for Trump, who is highly sensitive to U.S. trade deficits.

Japan logged the second-largest surplus with the U.S. last year, behind only China, and there had been some expectation Abe would use the visit to propose new Japanese investments to help Trump spur American job growth. There was no such announcement Friday — only agreement to launch a high-level dialogue on economic cooperation.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe looks to win Trump’s trust in White House talks

February 10, 2017

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON

The Associated Press

This combination file photo shows Donald Trump, right, stands on the 14th fairway during a pro-am round of the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. on June 27, 2012, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, playing golf in Yamanakako village, west of Tokyo, on July 23, 2016. If they stick to schedule, Abe and Trump will spend more time on the fairway than at the White House. After facing off on some divisive issues in Washington on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, they are jetting to Florida, where they will turn to something they have in common on Saturday: a love of golf. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, right, Kyodo News via AP, left, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s meeting with Japan’s prime minister offers a chance to shore up a long-standing security alliance and repair economic ties shaken by U.S. withdrawal from a Pacific trade pact.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is expected to propose more Japanese investment in the U.S., has wasted no time in trying to win Trump’s trust. He was the only world leader to meet the Republican before inauguration, and will be the second to do so since the new president took office.

Trump and Abe will hold talks in the Oval Office on Friday, followed by a joint news conference and a working lunch. Trump will then host Abe and his wife at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. The two leaders are scheduled to play golf on Saturday.

Other leaders of America’s closest neighbors and allies, such as Mexico, Britain and Australia, have been singed by their encounters or conversations with Trump. But Japanese officials are optimistic the invitation to visit Trump’s “Winter White House” signals a more positive outcome.

Although the U.S. administration is only three weeks old, some repair work is already in order. Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and campaign trail demands that allies pay more for their own defense sowed doubts in Tokyo about the new administration’s commitment to an alliance that has underpinned security in the Asia-Pacific since the end of World War II and one which Abe has sought to strengthen.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis allayed many of those concerns during a trip to Japan and South Korea last week. Both countries host tens of thousands of U.S. forces — seen as a deterrent against the nuclear threat from North Korea and China’s growing assertiveness.

A senior U.S. official said that the Trump administration is upholding the U.S. position that its defense treaty with Japan applies to East China Sea islands disputed by Japan and China — a stance opposed by Beijing. The president is expected to speak on that subject, the official said.

The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the planning for the trip ahead of Abe’s arrival in Washington late Thursday.

The economic side of the U.S.-Japan relationship is more uncertain.

One of Trump’s first actions as president was to withdraw the U.S. from a 12-nation, trans-Pacific trade agreement that was negotiated by the Obama administration and strongly supported by Tokyo.

Trump has also criticized Toyota Motor Corp. for planning to build an assembly plant in Mexico and complained Japanese don’t buy enough U.S.-made cars.

But Japanese companies are already major employers in the U.S., and Japanese officials say they are hammering out a job-creation package of infrastructure investments to propose during Abe’s visit.

Abe has said that Japan may be open to a bilateral trade deal with the U.S., which is Trump’s preference, but reaching such a deal would be politically difficult. Japan logged the second-largest trade surplus with the U.S. last year, similar to the surpluses of Germany and Mexico, but far smaller than China’s.

Related:

Trump Will Use Abe Visit to Soothe Worried Asia-Pacific Allies

February 10, 2017

President hopes to dispel concern about his approach to the region during visit of Japan’s prime minister

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Donald Trump in November before his inauguration. The two will meet again Friday at the White House.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Donald Trump in November before his inauguration. The two will meet again Friday at the White House. PHOTO: CABINET SECRETARIAT/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Updated Feb. 9, 2017 8:39 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump plans to use the White House visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday to reassure America’s Asia-Pacific allies that his administration values U.S. alliances in the region, despite his earlier comments raising doubts about his support for the relationships…

The new president views alliances generally as the “cornerstone” of security for the U.S. and the world, and will make clear during Mr. Abe’s visit that he views those in Asia as “central to our success both in terms of security and prosperity in the region,” a senior administration official said.

“I think that that will go a long way towards dispelling any doubts that may still remain” about Mr. Trump’s commitment to U.S. alliances, the official said.

The effort seeks to quell anxiety stoked in the region triggered by Mr. Trump’s comments during the presidential campaign suggesting he might break from decades of American foreign policy by scaling back the U.S. military presence in Asia, and by raising the prospect of countries like Japan and South Korea acquiring nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump’s election victory raised concerns in Japan in particular about a disruption to the international order that has underpinned the country’s peace and return to prosperity after World War II. A poll conducted at the end of January by Kyodo News showed 84% of Japanese residents thought Mr. Trump would create global instability.

The stakes are high for Japan because the U.S. is both its largest export destination and security guarantor. About 50,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Japan, the largest American military contingent in Asia.

Japan’s concerns of U.S. disengagement from Asia were amplified by Mr. Trump’s decision in January to suspend U.S. involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trade pact that would have included seven nations in Asia, including Japan.

A recent visit to Japan by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offered reassurances, as he indicated the new administration sees Japan as a vital partner in tackling North Korea’s accelerating nuclear program and China’s military assertiveness. Mr. Mattis praised Japan’s contributions to the alliance and didn’t raise the issue of U.S. military costs, according to Japanese officials.

While Mr. Mattis’s comments helped calm Japanese nerves, officials have been mindful of the periodic contradictions that have emerged in the new American administration between the president and his aides. So the reaffirmation expected from Mr. Trump to Mr. Abe has an added significance.

Mr. Abe’s visit is the second for Mr. Trump by a world leader since he took office last month, following a late-January visit from British Prime Minister Theresa May. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to visit Mr. Trump in Washington on Monday.

But the meeting with the Japanese leader will be more extensive. The president and the prime minister are scheduled to meet in the Oval Office, have lunch at the White House and take questions jointly from reporters, before the two leaders and their wives fly to Florida to spend the weekend at Mr. Trump’s home there, Mar-a-Lago.

The Florida weekend is designed for Messrs. Trump and Abe to get to know each other in a more casual setting, over golf and meals, administration officials said.

Beyond general support for the alliance, Mr. Trump is expected to say that he will continue current U.S. policy that the U.S.-Japan bilateral defense treaty covers islands in the East China Sea administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

As China has made territorial challenges to other Asian countries in recent years, it has sent more ships to the waters surrounding islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Three Chinese coast guard ships sailed close to the islands on Monday, the fourth appearance in the area by Chinese vessels this year, according to Japan.

Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, leaving Tokyo for the U.S. Mr. Abe’s visit is the second for President Trump by a world leader since he took office.

Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, leaving Tokyo for the U.S. Mr. Abe’s visit is the second for President Trump by a world leader since he took office. PHOTO: JIJI PRESS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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“I would expect certainly for you to hear on that subject in fairly concrete terms that President Trump is committed to that treaty and it extending,” the senior administration official said. “We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japan’s administration of the islands.”

On trade, the two leaders are expected to discuss a possible path forward after Mr. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP, with Mr. Trump favoring bilateral deals instead.

“In a bilateral agreement you can negotiate terms that are more favorable to the United States than you can negotiate a multilateral agreement where sometimes you’re held to the standards to the weakest link in the compact,” the U.S. official said.

Japanese officials say they are open to discussions about a bilateral deal, though they preferred the TPP.

Mr. Trump has regularly blasted Japan for unfair trade practices, citing the $60 billion bilateral trade imbalance, and last week lumped Japan together with China as unfairly manipulating currencies to boost exports—a charge both countries deny.

Part of Tokyo’s strategy for trying to contain tensions over those views is to offer Mr. Trump and his advisers a detailed picture of how Japan contributes to the U.S. economy through investment and job creation.

“We are talking about a mature relationship between two economies that are mutually dependent,” Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko said on Tuesday.” Our relationship today is different from that in the past when the two countries collided over trade frictions.”

A priority for Japan is for Mr. Abe to develop personal ties with Mr. Trump. The Japanese leader appeared to make a misstep by holding talks with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in September but not Mr. Trump. A meeting was hastily arranged soon after Mr. Trump’s election.

Mr. Abe wasn’t seen as being close to President Barack Obama, but ties between the two nations grew warmer in the final year of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Last May, Mr. Obama became the first U.S. leader to visit Hiroshima, the site of one of two U.S. atomic bombings of Japan in 1945. Mr. Abe reciprocated with a trip to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor in December.

Write to Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com and Alastair Gale at alastair.gale@wsj.com

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