Japan PM aims to strengthen U.S. alliance under President Trump

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking in parliament hours before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office, said on Friday he wanted to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

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Trump sparked worries in Tokyo and the rest of the Asia-Pacific with campaign comments which included a pledge to make allies pay more for the security provided by U.S. forces and opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

“The Japan-U.S. alliance has been, is and will be the cornerstone of our country’s diplomatic and security policies. This is an immutable principle,” Abe said in his policy speech at the start of the regular parliament session.

“I am aiming to visit the United States as soon as possible to further fortify the bond of alliance together with new President Trump.”

Abe met with Trump in New York after the election in November and called him a “trustworthy leader”.

In his speech to parliament, the prime minister repeated his support for TPP, which will go into deep freeze if the United States drops out.

“As a flag bearer for free trade, we will build an economic system of the 21st century based on fair rules. The TPP agreement sets the standard for that purpose and serves as the foundation for future economic cooperation,” he said.

Japan has ratified the TPP and on Friday notified New Zealand, secretariat for the TPP, it had completed the domestic procedures for the pact, becoming the first country among the 12 signatory nations to do so. New Zealand has ratified the TPP, but not completed the whole domestic procedures.

Koichi Hamada, an adviser to Abe and emeritus professor of economics at Yale University, told Reuters that Japan should push back if Trump bases trade and other economic policy on “wrong economics”, in an unusually direct expression of concern about potential protectionism.


Echoing the sentiment in Abe’s speech, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance key to regional peace and prosperity, and said Japan is ready to play a role as a stabilizing power in a world ripe for change.

“Uncertainty is growing in the international community, while Japan has conducted stable politics and diplomacy over the past four years and increased its international presence,” Kishida said in his foreign policy speech.

“As a stable power, Japan needs to work with countries it shares fundamental values with and take a leading role in the international community, so that this ... will be the year of advancement of Japan’s national interest and of global peace and prosperity.”

Abe’s ruling coalition enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament’s powerful lower house, while the transition of power in the United States, key elections this year in France and Germany and Britain’s departure from the European Union are making the global economic and political outlook uncertain.

Trump’s inauguration ceremony will take place later on Friday in Washington, which braces for more than a quarter-million protesters expected during the New York real estate tycoon’s swearing-in.

Following the speeches by Abe and Kishida, Finance Minister Taro Aso pledged to stick to the government’s target of achieving a balanced budget in the fiscal year ending in March 2021, by pursuing both economic growth and fiscal consolidation.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaha; Editing by Michael Perry