Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has 'great confidence' in Donald Trump

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has 'great confidence' in Donald Trump
Security personnel stand at the front entrance of Trump Tower in New York. Picture: AP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first world leader to meet President-elect Donald Trump yesterday, seeking reassurances over the future of the US-Japan security and trade relations.

Mr Abe met with Mr Trump in New York, where the incoming president is working to set up an administration after his surprise election victory last week that has injected new uncertainty into old US alliances.

"I do believe that without confidence between the two nations (the) alliance would never function in the future and (after) the outcome of today's discussion I am convinced Mr. Trump is a leader in whom I can have great confidence," Mr Abe said following the meeting.

Mr Trump's campaign rhetoric caused consternation in many world capitals, including Tokyo.

The president-elect has said he would demand that allies such as Japan and South Korea contribute more to the cost of basing US troops in their countries.

Such comments have worried Japan at a time when the threat from North Korea is rising and China is challenging the US-led security status quo in the Pacific.

The State Department has said it had yet to hear from Mr Trump's transition team, raising the prospect of the Republican holding the meeting with Mr Abe without any input from career diplomats with deep experience dealing with Japan.

Both Japan and South Korea already pay considerable sums to support the US bases and note that it is also in America's strategic interest to deploy troops in the region.

Mr Trump has suggested Japan and South Korea could obtain their own nuclear weapons rather than rely on US deterrence, which risks a triggering an atomic arms races in north-east Asia.

South Korea currently pays more than $800m a year - about 50% of non-personnel costs of the US military deployment on its soil - and is paying $9.7bn more for relocating US military bases, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Japan pays about $2bn a year, about half of the cost of the stationing US forces.

The Japanese leader may also try to sway Mr Trump on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country trade agreement that the president-elect opposes.

The pact was championed by President Barack Obama and Mr Trump's victory has all but erased hopes of its early ratification by the US Congress.

The pact is expected to be discussed in a side meeting at the annual summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Community in Peru, where Mr Abe heads after New York. Mr Obama will also be in attendance.

Mr Abe is Japan's most powerful leader in a decade and he has invested political capital in overcoming strong domestic opposition to the TPP.

He has also sought to increase the international role played by Japan's military, which is constrained by a pacifist constitution.

That could jibe with Mr Trump's desire to see US partners shoulder more of the burden for their defence.

New White House team

Meanwhile, Donald Trump started building his team on Thursday after offering retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn the job of national security adviser.

Mr Flynn, who served as director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, has advised Mr Trump on national security issues for months.

As national security adviser, he would work in the White House and have frequent access to the president.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump consulted with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sat down with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a potential contender to lead the State Department.

Mr Trump is a foreign policy novice and his early moves on national security are being closely watched by US allies and adversaries alike.

He is said to be considering a range of officials with varying degrees of experience to lead the State Department and Pentagon.

Mr Flynn, who turns 58 in December, built a reputation in the Army as an astute intelligence professional and a straight talker.

He retired in 2014 and has been a fierce critic of President Barack Obama's White House and Pentagon, taking issue with the administration's approach to global affairs and fighting Islamic State.

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