TOKYO—Japan’s prime minister has worked hard to build close ties with President Donald Trump. Now, as Shinzo Abe heads to the U.S. for another summit meeting, differences over trade and North Korea are testing that relationship.
Abe is due at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for two days starting Tuesday. The Japanese leader raced to arrange the meeting after Trump surprised many by agreeing to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a summit now slated for May or June.
Japan had pressed the international community to be wary of North Korea’s “smile diplomacy,” but it has quickly pivoted to trying to ensure its interests will be reflected in any deal-making between Washington and Pyongyang.
The elimination of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles ‘has no meaning for Japan, so I want to tell the president that [North Korea] should also abandon short- and intermediate-range missiles that put Japan within range.’
One fear in Tokyo is that an agreement to curtail or end the North Korean nuclear-missile threat to the U.S. could amount to a de facto acceptance of North Korean weapons that can reach Japan.
On Thursday, Mike Pompeo, Trump’s choice as new secretary of state, indicated that the U.S. is unlikely to make Abe’s request a precondition for any agreement with North Korea.
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