11/18/2016, 15.16
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Shinzo Abe is the first foreign leader to meet Donald Trump, as China’s shadow looms

Held in New York, the meeting included a “candid talk” in a “warm atmosphere”. The 12-nation Asia-Pacific minus China trade deal is in trouble. Japan's contribution to the US military presence is an issue.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the first foreign leader to meet newly elected US president Donald Trump.

The latter’s threat to scrap the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fear that he might give China too much military and economic leeway in Asia were the background to the hastily arranged 90-minute meeting.

Abe requested the meeting and made the stopover in New York on his way to Peru for the Asia-Pacific trade summit.

"We were able to have a very candid talk over a substantial amount of time. We held it in a very warm atmosphere,” Mr Abe said after the meeting. "I am convinced Mr Trump is a leader in whom I can have great confidence in."

Trump’s campaign has raised many doubts in Asia, especially in Japan and South Korea. The president-elect said that Tokyo and Seoul should pay more for US military bases. He also suggested that Japan and South Korea could obtain their own nuclear weapons rather than rely on US deterrence.

At present, South Korea currently pays more than US$ 800 million a year – about 50 per cent of non-personnel costs of the US military deployment on its soil – and is paying US$ 9.7 billion more for relocating US military bases.

Japan pays about billion a year, about half of the cost of US forces stationed on its territory. Trump’s position seems to fit with Abe's long-standing support for a defence build-up and changes to the country’s pacifist constitution.

The Japanese leader is also keen on Trump rethinking his position vis-à-vis the TPP, which the new president said (during the campaign) he would not ratify. Abe managed to get the Japanese parliament to approve the TPP, which he sees as a possible brake on Chinese economic hegemony in Asia.

Promoted by outgoing President Barack Obama, the deal facilitates economic links between 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific, but not China.

The countries that signed up for the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

After Trump’s statement on the matter, Vietnam announced that it would not ratify the deal.

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