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The Abe to meet Trump amid challenges at home and abroad
Domestic political scandals and sinking approval ratings are weighing on the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he is heading to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for two days of talks starting on Tuesday.
Before boarding his flight from the Tokyo, Abe taking the unusual step of pledging to clean up the mess in government when he gets back.
“As head of the government, I am committing to deal with every single problem responsibly to uncover the truth and squeeze out the pus,” he says.
Abe’s meetings with Trump may providing a brief respite from his problems at home and can stem slide infamous. Two leaders were planning to golf at two previous summits.
The round of talks may prove more challenging than the first two. Abe will have to overcome policy divisions on trade and potentially North Korea that has emerged in the Donald Trump’s second year in office. The poor summit showing can more undermine Abe’s position at home.
Japanese leader’s approval ratings are declining to below 30 percent in the polls as Abe has to hit through accusations of cronyism and mishandling of official documents through several ministries.
Contrasting with the 50 percent approval rating he enjoys at the time of his Tokyo summit with Trump in November, soon after leading his ruling party to a landslide election victory.
A school land deal scandal linking to Abe’s wife re-erupted in March after a newspaper revealed that Finance Ministry officials have to alter documents relating to the school’s purchase of state land at a considerable discount. Abe has said no that he or his wife intervening in the sale.
Then, the second allegation of favouritism resurfacing, in which a friend of Abe got permission to establishing a new veterinary school in western Japan. Abe was weathering both scandals last year, but the discovery of new evidence has reignited the charges.
Separately, the Defence Ministry has to acknowledge mishandling documents relating to a previous peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, and a top Finance Ministry official has to accuse of the sexual harass.
The mounting scandals have called into a question Abe’s chances of securing a third term as party leader this September, which is seeming to assure earlier this year and can force him to step down before leadership line.
Other party leaders with an eye on premiership are ready to pounce should Abe fall, though he was bouncing back from setbacks before.
Abe’s aiding to hope that meeting with Trump will showcase the leaders’ close personal relationship, as the two summits last year did.
“Playing golf, it can take time and exchange views on a range of issues deepening their relationship of trust,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says at the regular briefing Tuesday.
Trump surprising Abe, and much of the world, when he is announcing that he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. That summit is expecting in May or early June.
Abe will want to make sure Trump does not cut a deal with North Korea that leaves Japan exposing to shorter-range missiles that do not threaten the U.S. mainland.
He also is expecting to ask Trump to raise with Kim the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea in the years of 1970 and 1980.
A political science professor says Abe will try to make sure the two leaders are on the same page on North Korea.
“Mr Abe wants to confirm their cooperation and to eliminate the image that Japan is live out of the loop,” he says. He is also seeking to achieve a smooth result in hopes of the turning around his public support.
But Trump is unpredictable, Uchiyama says, and an unfavourable outcome can damage Abe further.
Abe also will likely seek a reversal of the decision not to exclude Japan from new steel and aluminium tariffs, while resisting Trump’s attempts to pull Japan into bilateral trade negotiations.
Japanese officials say Abe and Trump might also discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Trump indicating last week that the U.S. might be unusual in re-joining what is now an 11-country trade agreement.
Trump pull the U.S. out of TPP shortly after his inauguration in the early year of 2017.
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