U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe begin two days of talks Friday that provide both leaders with opportunities to reinforce a long-established security treaty and bolster their economic relationship.
Trump and Abe will hold talks in the Oval Office Friday morning followed by a midday news conference. The two leaders will then fly to Palm Beach, Florida for a weekend stay at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.
It will be the most time Trump will have spent with a foreign leader since he became president on January 20. It will be Trump's second face-to-face meeting with a key ally after hosting British Prime Minister Theresa May two weeks ago.
"I think the president just really enjoys [Abe's] company and wants to not only get to know him better but to have a greater bilateral relationship," said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. "He understands the importance of the region," Spicer added.
The Trump administration set a positive tone for the weekend summit by saying Trump would resist any unilateral declarations that would threaten Japan's authority over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
'America First' policy
Japan has been concerned about the impact Trump's "America First" strategy will have on Asia, as well as Trump's decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Japanese government sources say Abe hopes promises to create U.S. jobs and strengthen its military will convince Trump to adopt more favorable economic positions and honor their longstanding alliance.
Japanese officials say Abe hopes to achieve this with an expected economic stimulus package that could create 700,000 U.S. jobs through investments in infrastructure.
Japan's concerns about Trump's campaign promise to get Japan and other U.S. allies to pay more for their own defense were allayed somewhat by Defense Secretary James Mattis during a visit last week to Japan and South Korea.
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