Japan's Abe to meet with Trump as scandals swirl at home

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a news conference at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on Nov. 6 2017

But despite those promising beginnings, Abe's view of Trump has suddenly veered to alarm.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File).

Japan envisions TPP minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer heading the new trade dialogue, separate from the existing economic dialogue helmed by Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, the source said.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is leaving on a United States trip this week for a meeting with Trump to discuss trade plans and meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. "As head of the government, I'm committed to deal with every single problem responsibly to uncover the truth and squeeze out the pus", he said.

But this round of talks may prove more challenging than the first two. Abe also wants Trump to bring up Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang long ago. "That was his big mistake", said Clyde Prestowitz, a top trade negotiator in the Reagan administration, to the Los Angeles Times.

The Finance Ministry last month admitted to altering documents relating to the sale of land in Osaka to a nationalist school with links to Akie Abe, including deleting her name and the prime minister's name from the papers.

The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Abe weathered both scandals past year, but the discovery of new evidence has reignited the charges. The surprise announcement that Trump will meet with the North Korean leader was a bit of a body blow to the Abe cabinet.

Abe's sliding ratings raise doubts about whether he can win a third three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader in a September vote, that he needs to win to stay in office, or whether he might resign before the party vote. Other party leaders with an eye on the premiership are ready to pounce should Abe fall, though he has bounced back from setbacks before.

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Another golf outing, as at their Mar-a-Lago and Tokyo meetings in 2017, is being planned, a Japanese official said. First and foremost, Abe and Trump will need to talk about Kim Jong-un.

The summit agenda is expected to be quite rich.

"Japanese officials are intent on ensuring that Trump pushes to reduce the threat posed by the North's short- and medium-range missiles, in addition to its nuclear arsenal and intercontinental ballistic missiles", my colleagues reported. USA officials stressed that Trump has met with Abe more than any other world leader, and say they've been in "constant contact" since Trump accepted Kim's invitation.

If Abe, whose reputation at home has been hit by multiple controversies, can prove that the U.S. -Japan alliance is strong in the face of trade tensions and North Korea talks - two issues important to Abe's re-election prospects - that could strengthen his domestic standing.

But Trump is unpredictable, Uchiyama said, and an unfavorable outcome could damage Abe further.

Abe is also expected to push for exemptions on new USA tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that have been granted to several key US allies.

Japanese officials said Abe and Trump might also discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership, after Trump indicated last week that the US might be interested in rejoining what is now an 11-country trade agreement.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the regional trade deal Trump pulled out of past year, would have helped lower those barriers for American farmers.

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