May 26, 2017 – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed their stances on tackling the threat on North Korea in Italy today just ahead of the Group of Seven industrialized nations’ summit.
According to the White House, Trump told Abe that the issues surrounding the country, which continues to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, are “a world problem and it will be solved at some point.”
“It will be solved, you can bet on that,” Trump said at the outset of the talks, the portion open to journalists.
Japanese officials said Abe and Trump are expected to reaffirm their commitment to work in close coordination in trying to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
They may also agree that China, Pyongyang’s primary diplomatic and economic benefactor, should play a greater role in pursuit of that goal.
Abe has repeatedly said North Korea’s recent provocations constitute a new level of threat for the Asia-Pacific region, and praised Trump’s assertion that all options, including military action, are “on the table” in ensuring the denuclearization of North Korea.
North Korea has launched a series of missiles this year, most recently into the Sea of Japan on Sunday, and is thought to be planning a sixth nuclear test despite U.N. resolutions prohibiting it from carrying out either activity.
The leaders were also set to discuss their positions on maritime security, likely to come up in the G-7 discussions of global issues. The Abe administration’s emphasis on maritime security reflects its concerns about China’s expansionary efforts in the East and South China seas.
While Abe and Trump are sure to affirm a common stance on security, the gap between them on trade policy is indicative of the general gulf between Trump’s “America First” stance and the consensus reached at last year’s G-7, hosted by Abe in Japan.
Abe has recently stressed the importance of standing up for free trade to prevent protectionist sentiment from taking hold worldwide. But an explicit mention of protectionism may end up being left out of this year’s leaders’ communique.
Immediately after taking office in January, Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade mega-pact, effectively lessening the economic and strategic benefits the Abe administration hoped to gain from the deal.
In their first official summit in the United States in February, Abe and Trump affirmed the bonds of the Japan-U.S. alliance. They have kept in regular contact since then, holding three telephone talks in April alone.
Sources close to bilateral ties said they also spoke on the phone early this month as a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ship joined a U.S. Navy ship at sea in the first protection mission enabled by Japanese legislation that took effect last year.