FILE PHOTO - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, October 6, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Roberta Rampton
TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Saturday to meet early next month, affirming the importance of bilateral ties while setting the stage for potentially sensitive trade talks.
Trump's administration has put the focus of the Abe visit, one of the first summits of the new presidency, on starting bilateral trade talks. Japan says it is preparing for all contingencies in dealing with Trump, who pulled America out of an Asia-Pacific trade deal Japan had championed and who has said Japan does not offer fair access to U.S. carmakers.
"President Trump affirmed the ironclad U.S. commitment to ensuring the security of Japan," during a telephone call in which they agreed to meet in Washington on Feb. 10, the White House said.
Abe told reporters that at the coming meeting, "I would like to have a candid exchange of views on the economy and security issues as a whole."
The two leaders discussed the automotive industry, said senior government spokesman Koichi Hagiuda, without giving details. The White House statement said the two "committed to deepen the bilateral trade and investment relationship."
Trump has threatened a "border tax" on imports into the United States and has said Japan has unfair barriers to foreign auto imports. Japanese officials have pointed out that there are no tariffs on foreign car imports into Japan and maintain there are no discriminatory non-tariff barriers.
Trump and Abe agreed on the importance of economic ties between the world's No. 1 and No. 3 economies, said Hagiuda, Abe's deputy chief cabinet secretary.
On security, the two discussed a visit this week by Defense Secretary James Mattis, the first trip to the region by a Trump cabinet member.
"President Trump and Prime Minister Abe said they would consult and cooperate on the threat posed by North Korea," the White House said.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Ralph Boulton and David Evans)