With golf and gifts, Japan's Abe cuts own path with Trump

Whether Abe can extract the same assurances from Trump has serious implications for Japan's ability to deter further provocations by China and North Korea.

The former reality TV star, in comments to business executives, has assailed Japan for allegedly devaluing the yen, grouping it with other countries he says are taking "advantage" of the US. He added that Trump has invited Abe for a round of golf while the Japanese prime minister is in the United States. He told the radio show host of the plan to take Prime Minister Abe to Palm Beach in Florida to play golf.

After abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between 12 Pacific Rim countries including the USA and Japan, it's possible Trump will attempt to establish a two-way trade deal with Japan. "Abe is very proud of his grandfather and has worked hard to fulfill his unrealized dream of building a full strategic partnership with Washington". Japan is prepared to respond in kind, insisting the USA open up its market for public contracts and abolish import tariffs on automobiles, which would stoke the ire of American automakers.

Mr Trump has previously criticised the lack of access to the Japanese auto market for United States producers and has accused Tokyo of using monetary policy to devalue its currency.

In particular, Tokyo would like to see Trump state explicitly that the US obligation to defend Japanese territory, as set forth in the countries' security treaty, extends to the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which China claims as the Diaoyu.

If, on the other hand, the Trump team takes a little more nuanced approach, Japan will try to strengthen collaboration with the US and use that to pressure China, whose favorable treatment for state enterprises is a perennial sticking point with Washington. The Financial Times reported that Shinzo Abe has called for officials to gather "tweetable" figures on Japanese companies' investment plans that he can then present to the American president when they meet on Friday.

Abe gave the president-elect a high-end golf driver at their November meeting in NY.

The Japanese display maker Sharp Corp. was also considering building a plant in the US during the first half of 2017, although Sharp has not confirmed whether the plant will be built. It was Trump's first meeting with a foreign leader since he assumed the office. Still, the economic dialogue Abe will propose would serve to slow or stall free trade negotiations.

Hiroshi Ogushi, the Policy Research Committee chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, told the Mainichi Shimbun that he was "a little worried" as to what kind of message Abe's playing golf with Trump will send to the world.

During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized Japan for unfair trade practice involving auto imports and exports. Japanese sources have made clear Tokyo will push back on any attempts to bind its hands on a hyper-easy monetary policy central to "Abenomics" growth prescriptions.

Undeterred, Abe has tried to keep things on an even keel, holding his counsel on some of Trump's more divisive moves even as allies like Germany openly frown at his controversial ban on refugees.

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