Japan and China resumed economic dialogue

Freshens summary. Updates with details, background, quotes.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is leaving on a USA trip this week for a meeting with Trump to discuss trade plans and meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Abe served as Chief Cabinet Secretary for Koizumi and accompanied him to North Korea in 2002 for the first-ever Pyongyang-Tokyo summit. Tokyo had worked throughout 2017 to ensure the U.S. -Japan alliance was militarily prepared to respond to a missile attack, at times synchronizing exercises with those of the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

However, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Trump's pick for new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said while the USA would continue to defend Japan, the point of the Trump-Kim summit was "to address the nuclear threat to the United States".

Kono on Sunday said that he and Wang agreed to improve ties by having their leaders pay mutual visits, starting with a visit next month to Japan by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) for a trilateral summit involving South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Topics include trade, energy and China, as well as North Korea.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may resign in June as his ratings slide over numerous cronyism scandals. He will need to listen carefully to Abe's worries about the summit with Kim, and he will need to find a good approach to claiming victory on trade with Japan.

Golf is not on the official schedule, but senior administration officials didn't rule it out completely.

So far Trump has proven flexible about Abe's reluctance to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement. It is Abe's second visit to Mar-a-Lago, after meetings and a round of golf past year.

Since then Tokyo officials have watched in horror as China and South Korea - an ally, but an uneasy one - take on a more direct hand in influencing the outcome of a nuclear crisis that places Japan's very existence in question.

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"On North Korea, Japan now looks the most isolated of the allies".

Michael Green, who served in former USA president George W. Bush's National Security Council as senior director for Asian affairs, said there were a handful of things that Mr Trump could agree to that would be "deeply unnerving for United States allies and military". He will likely seek to get Trump to reverse his decision not to exclude Japan from new steel and aluminum tariffs, while resisting the USA leader's attempts to pull Japan into bilateral trade negotiations.

China has replaced the United States as the No. 1 trading partner for most nations in Asia, even those that have military alliances with the US, like South Korea, Japan and Australia. It sounds great in a tweet - but the practical reality of what that might look like is rattling the highest levels of the Japanese Government and should concern Australia, according to one U.S. national security expert.

There was a small sign of potential good news for Abe last week when Trump instructed aides to examine the possibility of the United States re-entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation trade deal from which Trump withdrew potential USA membership in his first week in office. But Trump is unhappy about trade between the two countries, which he has described as "not fair" and "not open".

Trump and Abe - both of whom are being buffeted by domestic scandals - will also talk trade including America's possible return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multinational trade pact from which the USA president pulled out shortly after taking office.

Abe is also expected to push the issue of Japanese abductees, one of his top policy priorities.

One major concern in Tokyo is that a United States future deal with North Korea could result in Pyongyang retaining missiles which can target Japan.

The U.S. itself is pushing for the release of three Americans.

But with Abe's approval rating languishing at its lowest level in years and Trump mired in controversies and crises too numerous to list, both are under pressure.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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