US President Donald Trump has backed the Japanese prime minister’s interest in using his country’s good relations with Iran to help broker a possible dialogue between the two nations.
Trump, who has said he is open to having a dialogue with Iran, has sought to downplay fears of military conflict.
The comments were made on Monday when Trump and Japan’s Shinzo Abe talked about Iran amid rising tension between Tehran and Washington.
With Abe at his side, Trump told reporters at Akasaka Palace on Monday that “nobody wants to see terrible things happen”.
Earlier, Trump became the first foreign leader to meet Japan’s newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito, in a state visit overshadowed by tensions over trade and policy on North Korea.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Monday greeted Trump at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo as part of a formal welcome ceremony that was broadcast live on national television.
Later on Monday, the US president and his wife, Melania Trump, will sit down to a lavish state dinner with the emperor and the empress.
Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, opening what is called the era of “Reiwa,” or “beautiful harmony.”
Trump and Abe spent the weekend playing golf, eating out and watching sumo.
“There’s a sense that this is another sign of the good relations between these two countries, but in particular a sign of the relationship between Trump and Abe,” Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Tokyo, said.
“There’s a sense that they could have given this meeting to anyone, but they didn’t. They gave it to the US, they gave it to Trump.”
Trump has threatened high tariffs for Japanese carmakers as part of an effort to reduce trade surpluses with other countries.
Washington believes surpluses are a sign that the US has been mistreated on trade – a theme Trump picked up on after landing in Tokyo on Saturday, vowing to make the relationship between the world’s largest and third-largest economies what he described as “a little bit more fair”.
Negotiations are taking place on a bilateral trade agreement but Trump has said he does not expect major progress on it until July, when Abe faces an election for parliament’s upper house.
Trump has spearheaded an expensive trade war with China, a major dispute that has hurt markets worldwide and confounded US allies, including Japan and the European Union.
Washington’s allies, although they share US concerns about Chinese practices, disagree with Trump’s tactics of threatening tariffs on their products rather than seeking cooperation in standing up to Beijing.
In addition to trade, Abe and Trump are expected to discuss North Korea and Iran.
Trump said on Sunday he was not worried about a recent missile launch by North Korea. That put him at odds with his own NSA, John Bolton, who said on Saturday that Pyongyang’s recent short-range missile tests violated United Nations Security Council resolutions. Japan shares Bolton’s view.
Also on Monday, Trump will meet the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago. Abe has urged the US president to raise the issue in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump is in Japan for a four-day state visit and is expected to address troops at a US base in the country on Tuesday.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies