US President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe both expressed a desire for "fair" trade relations between their nations. The leaders are expected to continue to address economic issues in two days of talks.
In a joint White House press conference on Friday, US President Donald Trump said his administration would work to strengthen US-Japanese ties and bring the two nations closer together.
"The bond between our two nations and the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep," Trump said. "This administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer."
The American president also expressed great personal warmth towards Abe, who was the first foreign leader to meet Trump as president-elect, and said the two of them "have a very, very good bond."
In further policy remarks, Trump thanked the Japanese prime minister for hosting American troops and reaffirmed America's commitment to preserving freedom of navigation and maintaining Japan's security, singling out defense against North Korea's nuclear missile threat as a "very high priority."
Economy dominates talks
Speaking after the president, the Abe likewise praised the importance and solidity of the US-Japanese relationship and highlighted the chance to expand free trade and investment in a "fair manner" that would benefit both nations.
Abe noted the $150 billion in investments made by Japanese companies in the United States and expressed his optimism about future Japanese involvement in major American infrastructure projects, using the development of high-speed train as an example.
Though neither Abe nor Trump, who stated that bilateral trade relations must be "free, fair and reciprocal," directly addressed questions from reporters pertaining to the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the leaders indicated they would discuss the matter further over the working lunch set to follow the press conference. The two leaders will then fly to Florida to go golfing at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
Abe is the second foreign leader to visit Trump in the White House, following British Prime Minister Theresa May.
"A level playing field" with China
After both leaders' opening remarks concluded, Trump addressed questions from the assembled press on a variety of topics, including US-Chinese relations. Japan fears a strengthened relationship between the US and China could be detrimental to Japanese economic interests as well as to the delicate balance of power in the Pacific.
Trump told the press that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping "had a very, very good talk last night" and that the two nations were "in the process of getting along very well, and I think it will be very much of a benefit to Japan."
At the same time, Trump reiterated his longstanding complaint about China's policy of currency devaluation but said that the two countries would reach a "level playing field" sooner than expected.
Before joining the president in the White House, Abe addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and sought to reassure nervous business leaders in both nations of the steady alliance between the United States and Japan.
"I wish to firmly build a relationship of trust at the leadership level with my visit to the United States, and to show to our people and the world the unwavering alliance between Japan and the United States," Abe said.
Trump had previously criticized Japanese consumers for not buying enough American-made cars and attacked Japanese companies for shipping American manufacturing jobs overseas. In January, Trump threatened to slap a tariff on Toyota if the auto manufacturer went through with a planned factory construction in Mexico.
Abe highlighted the benefits that Japanese industry provides the United States, calling the economic cooperation between the nations "truly a win-win relationship."
Most Japanese budget cars on American roads are produced in the United States by American workers, Abe also noted, adding that total investment by Japanese companies in the US approaches $411 billion and provides 840,000 jobs.
cmb/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)