Japan's Abe hails US ties ahead of Trump inauguration

By AFP   January 19, 2017 | 11:43 pm PT
Shinzo Abe pledged to boost ties with Donald Trump. 

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Friday pledged to boost ties with Donald Trump's new administration, ahead of the U.S. president-elect's inauguration later in the day.

"In the past, present and from now on, the Japan-U.S. alliance has been the cornerstone of our diplomacy and security policy," Abe said in a speech to mark the beginning of a new parliamentary session.

"I'm planning to visit the U.S. as soon as possible and strengthen the alliance further with new US President Trump."

In November, Abe met with Trump in New York, the first foreign leader to sit down with him after a campaign that included rhetoric that alarmed many U.S. allies, including Japan.

Trump mused about pulling thousands of U.S. troops from the Asia-Pacific region, and suggested officially pacifist Japan and South Korea may need nuclear weapons to defend themselves.

He also set off concerns about the fate of Japanese firms doing business in the United States after threatening Toyota with punitive tariffs over its new vehicle plant in Mexico.

In his wide-ranging speech Friday, Abe also said Japan will host a trilateral summit with China and South Korea this year and said he planned to visit Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Trump is poised to enter the White House with the lowest approval ratings of any new president in recent history -- 40 percent according to a CNN/ORC poll.

Trump slammed the findings, describing them as "rigged".

Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga took a more diplomatic position on Friday.

"High approval ratings are not always a good thing," he told a press briefing without elaborating.

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