May 28, 2019

During Trump visit, Abe aims to reinforce ties and smooth trade strains

President Trump with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Yokosuka, Japan. Photo: Athit Perawongmetha - Pool/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe designed an elaborate visit for President Trump, complete with golf, a sumo championship, warship tours and a meeting with the new emperor and empress. But the pageantry couldn’t paper over every crack between the two leaders.

The big picture: Discussions of bilateral trade and North Korea’s missile program left Abe struggling to accommodate Trump. Yet he knows how much hinges on their alliance and will do all he can to ensure Japan and the U.S. remain steady partners.

Details: After Trump railed against the trade deficit and the “advantage” given to Japanese firms by previous U.S. administrations, Abe countered with details of Japan’s investments over the past 2 years in the U.S. market and its creation of 45,000 new American jobs.

  • Flashback: Last September, Abe agreed to begin talks for a Trade Agreement in Goods, under which Japan would offer greater market access for U.S. agricultural products while the U.S. would continue to welcome imports of Japanese autos and auto parts. (Both issues had been part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump abandoned early in his presidency.)
  • Reality check: Trump's priorities notwithstanding, Japan’s manufacturers and government doubt a new bilateral deal would do much to shift the trade deficit.

Meanwhile, Abe also confronted dissembling on Kim Jong-un’s recent missile tests, which Trump dismissed as acts of "a man who wants to get attention" even after national security adviser John Bolton had called them a violation of UN sanctions.

  • In response, Abe reiterated his desire to meet directly with Kim, with missiles and abductions at the top of his agenda.

What to watch: At the end of June, Abe will play host to a more complex array of state leaders at the G20 Summit in Osaka. Trump will return, alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

  • Though most eyes will be on Xi and Trump, Abe did propose mediating U.S.-Iran talks, an offer Trump publicly welcomed.

The bottom line: Abe’s skill at maneuvering these difficult foreign relations will likely help his party at the polls this summer. A less proven leader could be harder to entrust with Japan's interests in the current climate, especially its prized U.S. alliance.

Sheila A. Smith is senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 652,079 — Total deaths: 30,438 — Total recoveries: 137,319.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 116,505 — Total deaths: 1,925 — Total recoveries: 921.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to give businesses and U.S. workers financial relief.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Infant dies after testing positive for coronavirus in Chicago

Hospital staff working inside a COVID-19 screening tent in Chicago on March 26. Photo: Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An infant less than one year old died in Chicago, Illinois after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the state health department said on Saturday.

Why it matters: The death would mark the first reported infant mortality from COVID-19 in the U.S. The fatality rate for the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is highest among those over 85 years old, per the CDC.

Go deeperArrow27 mins ago - Health

Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 44 mins ago - Health