With U.S. Election Outcome Unclear, Kishida Administration Seeks Contact with Trump Team

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida believes that Donald Trump is highly likely to win the Republican Party primary for the U.S. presidency, which kicked off Tuesday Japan time, and it is focused on building a relationship with the Trump team.

Since it is unclear who would win in a contest between Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden, the Japanese government is concerned about a revival of the “Trump way” of brushing aside U.S. alliances.

At a press conference on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said, “[The Japanese government] is watching the U.S. presidential election closely.” He added, “There is a common understanding of the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, regardless of U.S. party lines.”

Kishida is pinning his hopes on Taro Aso, vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, to serve as a conduit to Trump. The relationship with the Biden administration makes it difficult for Japanese government officials to make official contact with Trump’s team. However, a senior Foreign Ministry official said that Aso, a senior party official, would be less likely to create bitter feelings in the U.S. government.

On Monday, Kishida met with Aso, who visited the United States from Jan. 9 to Saturday, at the Prime Minister’s Office. It is believed that they exchanged views on the U.S. presidential election.

Aso had been working behind the scenes to arrange a meeting with Trump and traveled to New York, where Trump is partially based. Though no meeting was held due to the schedule for the Republican primary, Aso met with people close to Trump in Washington and confirmed he would seek a meeting with the former president.

According to sources, Aso told his aides that it is important to convey to Trump himself that he went all the way to New York in hopes of their meeting. Aso believes the trip will send a message that the Kishida administration values the Trump team.

It is believed that Trump also remembers Aso as a key figure close to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Aso was an old ally of Abe’s, and during his time in the Abe Cabinet he sat in on summits between Abe and Trump and played golf with them.

In November 2016, Abe became the first foreign leader to meet with Trump, who was then set to assume the U.S. presidency, and they formed a close personal relationship.

With the outcome of the U.S. presidential race difficult to predict, Kishida intends to make an official visit soon to the United States to further build trust with Biden and also to hasten contact with Trump’s team.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, and LDP Vice President Taro Aso, right, at a meeting of LDP party executive members in Tokyo on Dec. 19