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International relations

Trump touts August trade deal with Japan

President urges Abe to correct the 'trade imbalance' between the allies

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on Monday. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

TOKYO -- U.S. President Donald Trump urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to correct what he said was a trade imbalance between the two countries, saying that the two allies should be able to announce a deal in the summer.

"We will be announcing some things, probably in August, that will be very good for both countries," Trump said in opening remarks before talks with Abe at the Akasaka state guesthouse in Tokyo on Monday.

"We have to do a little catching up with Japan because they have been doing much more business with us and we'd like to do a little but more business in the reverse," Trump said. "We'll get the balance of trade straightened out rapidly... we are working on the imbalance of trade, there's been a tremendous imbalance and we are working on that -- and I'm sure that will work out over a period of time."

On Sunday, Trump tweeted: "Real progress being made in our Trade Negotiations with Japan. Agriculture and beef heavily in play. Much will wait until after their July elections where I anticipate big numbers!"

The U.S. has pressured Tokyo to open the nation wider to U.S. beef and farm goods -- a politically sensitive issue in Japan, where Abe faces upper house elections in two months.

Trump and Emperor Naruhito walk during a welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Monday morning. (Photo by Kei Higuchi) 

Speaking to business leaders in Tokyo on Sunday, Trump said he wanted a trade deal between the two allies to "remove barriers to U.S. exports."

Even so, the two sides remain far apart on auto tariffs. Tokyo is pushing back on additional levies or quotas while Washington looks to draw in agricultural goods and currency issues to extract concessions.

Tokyo has asked Washington to eliminate tariffs on auto parts that Japan exports to the U.S., but the White House is hesitant about doing so. The U.S., for its part, has dangled the threat of an additional 25% tariff and quotas on foreign cars, citing the growth in such imports as a national security threat. Tokyo has called these proposed measures a "hard red line."

Trump on Monday also touched on Tokyo's purchases of military equipment from the U.S.

"We make the best in the world, and as you know they feel that they need it, and I feel they need it also," he said. "And they've been buying almost exclusively from the U.S. and that brings our deficits own "

Ahead of their scheduled two hour meeting that includes a luncheon, Trump was asked about reports that Abe is planning a visit to Iran. Trump replied that Abe had already discussed the issue with him.

The United States withdrew last year from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, and is ratcheting up sanctions on the Middle East nation in efforts to strangle its economy by ending its international sales of crude oil.

U.S. President Donald Trump watches sumo in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Photo by Yuki Nakao)

The summit talks came after Trump was formally welcomed to Japan in a ceremony hosted by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Monday morning. The even was to honor Trump as the first state guest in Reiwa era that began May 1.

Later Monday, Trump will meet the family members of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea, and hold a news conference with Abe.

Emperor and Empress will host a welcome party in the evening at the Homeiden banquet hall in the royal residence. The dinner will include 168 guests from various fields such as politics and business.

On Sunday, Trump presented a custom-made trophy to the winner of a sumo tournament in Tokyo, marking the first time a sitting American president has appeared at an event for Japan's national sport.

Earlier in the day Trump and Abe played golf with pro golfer Isao Aoki at Mobara Country Club in Chiba, near Tokyo. Dinner followed sumo at a restaurant in Tokyo's upscale Roppongi district.

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