Trump meets Abe, but fails Japan

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/19 0:08:39

This time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is No.1 in the world. He met with US President-elect Donald Trump in New York on Thursday for 90 minutes, and became the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after the US election.

Not much information was released following the meeting. Abe held a press conference and said he would establish a relationship of trust with Trump, while Trump acted more prudently and refused to comment on US-Japan relations before assuming office.

"Trust" is particularly important for Japan, as the US-Japan alliance is built on trust.

However, Abe's haste to meet Trump to confirm that trust highlights his lack of confidence in their relationship. Further, Trump winning the US presidency has added uncertainty. Trump's claims that he will discard the TPP and pressure Japan to pay for American military stationed in Japan have left Abe uneasy and have placed Japan's strategy of relying on the US to contain China at risk of bankruptcy. That is why Abe put his reserve aside to present himself before Trump.

Abe chose to seek US support to contain China and reform Japan's pacifist constitution out of its fear of a rising China, with an aim of making Japan a bigger political power in the world. However, this zero-sum mentality ensures that Japan will have to take on the role of the US' "little brother."

China is also watching how Trump will deal with the Asia-Pacific. The difference between China and Japan is that China is more capable of shaping Asia-Pacific geopolitics and more confident about the direction of China-US relations.

The post-World War II geopolitical structure in Asia has always been manipulated by outside powers, and neither China nor Japan were in a leading position. However, that situation is being challenged by the rising power of China.

It's still to be seen whether the US, with Trump in office, will join the China-started Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or give a more positive response to the One Belt and One Road initiative. The US still needs Japan as a tool to counterbalance China, a strategy at the root of its global leadership pursuit.

After assuming power, Trump may adjust the US' relations with China and Japan, but a complete reverse is unlikely.

Abe went to New York to trumpet for the continuation of the US' "Pivot to Asia," however, he dared not leak a word about his meeting with Trump and showed no sign of them reaching any strategic agreement.

He failed to get the soothing pill he wanted from Trump or to make the US' other Asian allies believe Trump won't change the US' Asian policies.

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