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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is Trump’s First Meeting with a Foreign Leader

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be the first foreign leader to meet with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. At that meeting, there will be much to talk about.

Trump campaigned on a platform that included scuttling the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal that is key to Abe’s economic plans. Abe is likely to try to save at least part of the TPP. Among other items on the agenda will be discussion about the U.S.’s commitment to Japan’s continued defense and the establishment of a working relationship between the two nations.

Trump has yet to announce his foreign policy team. People across the world, and particularly in Asia, will be looking for signs that the United States will remain engaged in their regions.

“It’s still too soon to know what effect Trump will have on East Asia, or Japan in particular, until we know more about his specific policies and appointments,” said Sean King, Senior Vice President and East Asia specialist with Park Strategies.

“Abe can underscore our two countries’ shared values and stress how the U.S.-Japan alliance helps keep open markets, energy routes, and world shipping lanes … and convey to the president-elect how much we could both lose if things ever went awry,” King said.

The TPP can’t go into effect without U.S. support, and Abe is likely to advise Trump that rejecting it could push Asian nations into a separate trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Abe has told members of the Japanese Diet that if the TPP does not go forward, he plans to pivot toward the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The U.S. currently bases 50,000 troops in Japan, and Trump has questioned whether Japan pays enough to support that military presence. Trump has suggested that he might decrease the number of troops if Tokyo does not increase the approximately $1.8 billion per year it spends to defray the cost of the stationing U.S. forces in Japan.

The Washington-based Asia Foundation stated in a recent report that reducing the U.S. military presence in Japan could cause an arms race in the region and encourage Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear weapons.

Trump is currently looking to former Defense Intelligence Agency director Mike Flynn to give him guidance in defense matters. Flynn visited Tokyo in October and met privately with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, but he did not meet with Abe.

Grant Newsham of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo said that the Japanese government shouldn’t worry about what Trump said while on the campaign trail, since the president-elect has some “decent advisers” who will educate him on the importance of Japan as an ally.

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