Japan PM confident in Trump’s diplomacy debut

November 18, 2016 2:44 pm
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he held “candid” talks with US president-elect Donald Trump in “a very warm atmosphere” © AFP / Kena Betancur

, New York, United States, Nov 18 – Japan’s leader voiced confidence about Donald Trump as he became the first foreign leader to meet the US president-elect, who was narrowing in on cabinet choices.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met for 90 minutes with the president-elect Thursday evening at Trump Tower to sound him out after a campaign that included rhetoric that alarmed many US allies.

“As an outcome of today’s discussions, I am convinced Mr Trump is a leader in whom I can have great confidence,” Abe told reporters, describing a “very warm atmosphere.” He gave no specifics.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2nd left) meets Ivanka Trump (right) and her husband Jared Kushner in New York on November 17, 2016 © Cabinet Secretariat/AFP

Japan is one of Washington’s closest allies, but Trump alarmed Tokyo during the campaign by musing about pulling the thousands of US troops from the region, and suggesting that officially pacifist Japan may need nuclear weapons.

Trump also vowed while campaigning to tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade pact backed by outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama and which Abe had made a top priority.

Retired general Michael Flynn arrives at Trump Tower for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 17, 2016 © AFP / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Also at the meeting with Abe was Trump’s model-turned-business executive daughter Ivanka and her husband, real estate developer and publisher Jared Kushner.

The presence of the couple, who have emerged as key advisors, underscores the family’s influence as the president-elect readies to take power.

– Flynn as top security adviser? –

Trump on Friday will head to his exclusive golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, transition officials said, a location that offers more seclusion and comes amid complaints about the congestion in front of Trump Tower on New York’s bustling Fifth Avenue.

Activists rally in Washington, DC to call on President-elect Donald Trump and Congress to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) trade deal © Getty/AFP/File / Alex Wong

Trump, who has been interviewing Republican operatives for top cabinet posts, appeared to be zeroing-in on staunch supporters but also considering former rivals.

The president-elect has offered the role of national security adviser to retired general Michael Flynn, a military intelligence officer and staunch campaign loyalist, several US media outlets reported late Thursday, citing transition team sources.

It was unknown if Flynn has accepted the job, which does not require senate confirmation.

A former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012-2014, Flynn was sharply critical of Obama administration policies.

Donald Trump choosing a cabinet © AFP / Vincent LEFAI, Jean-Michel CORNU

Flynn however was ousted from that job amid reports of an abrasive management style and clashes with senior officials.

During the campaign his vocal support for Trump gave the businessman credibility with veterans despite the billionaire’s lack of military service.

And at the Republican National Convention, Flynn led chants of “Lock her up!” — calling for Democrat Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned.

Trump also met with Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and hinted that he would offer him a prime position. Sessions was one of Trump’s earliest supporters.

– Victory lap for Trump –

Trump is set to meet over the weekend with one of his harshest Republican critics, Mitt Romney, and may be considering him for secretary of state, MSNBC and CNN reported.

Romney, who lost to Obama in 2012, had described Trump as vulgar, dishonest and out of line with US values, rebuking the tycoon for proposals such as banning the entry of all foreign Muslims.

A report said President-elect Donald Trump may be considering one of his harshest Republican critics, Mitt Romney (centre), as secretary of state © Getty/AFP/File / George Frey

If chosen Romney would bring a more orthodox Republican worldview to foreign policy. In 2012 Romney described Russia as the top geopolitical threat — a sharp contrast to Trump, who has exchanged compliments with President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier reports said Trump was considering South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, an Indian-American woman who would inject rare diversity into his team. Haley visited Trump Tower on Thursday but did not speak to reporters.

Another possible State Department pick is former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a longtime Trump supporter who would likely face tough Senate scrutiny over controversial business dealings.

Pentagon and State Department officials said that Trump’s team had reached out on the transition, easing concerns of critics who note Trump’s lack of governing experience.

Trump also met 93-year-old Henry Kissinger, the apostle of realpolitik who guided foreign policy for presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer.

“Israel has no doubt that president-elect Trump is a true friend of Israel,” Dermer said.

– Democrats face internal challenge –

Trump pulled off the biggest upset in modern US political history through support from white working-class voters, defeating Clinton on November 8 in several states that had given Obama comfortable victories.

George Gigicos with the Trump team told reporters that the president-elect would head to some of those states after the November 24 Thanksgiving holiday in a post-election “victory tour.”

Trump has drawn outrage by tapping anti-establishment firebrand Stephen Bannon, who pushes white identity politics, as chief strategist. House Democrats urged him to cancel the appointment.

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, meeting in Washington with vice president-elect Mike Pence, nevertheless said her party stood ready to work with the incoming US leader on areas such as improving childcare access — an issue the tycoon embraced during the campaign.

Pelosi, 76, who as House speaker was the highest-ranking woman in US history, has led House Democrats since 2002 with strong internal support.

But 43-year-old Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio on Thursday announced he would challenge Pelosi, saying the election defeat showed that Democrats need to change.

“Keeping our leadership team completely unchanged will simply lead to more disappointment in future elections,” Ryan said in a statement.

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