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Trump first leader to meet Japan's new emperor

Chris Ryan 97 May 26
U.S. President Donald Trump is escorted by Japan"s Emperor Naruhito during an welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Trump met Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

US President Donald Trump has become the first foreign leader to meet Japan's Emperor Naruhito.

Mr Trump, who is currently on a four-day state visit to Japan, was greeted by the emperor and Empress Masako at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The US leader said ahead of the meeting that it was a "great honour".

Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne earlier in May after his father Akihito stepped down - the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in centuries.

"It's over 200 years since something like this has happened," Mr Trump said of the abdication on Sunday. "So it's a great honour to be representing the United States."

Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were greeted by a Japanese honour guard and crowds waving US and Japanese flags as part of a formal welcoming ceremony on Monday.

The US president is said to have given a slight bow to the emperor and empress before entering the palace, according to news wire Reuters.

Mr Trump and Mrs Trump will return to the Imperial Palace later in the evening for a dinner banquet.

Image caption Mr Trump reviewed the honour guard during a welcome ceremony

Mr Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also met on Monday at the Akasaka Palace - a state guest house - where they discussed trade and relations with North Korea.

Ties with the US are of great strategic importance to Japan, and the countries are currently working on a bilateral trade agreement.

However Mr Trump has said that "much" of that deal will wait until Mr Abe faces elections for Japan's upper house of parliament, which are expected to take place in July.

Mr Trump said at the start of talks on Monday that "trade wise... we will be announcing some things in August that will be very good for both countries".

The US leader also referenced North Korea's recent nuclear activity ahead of a meeting later on Monday with the families of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea decades ago, to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs.

The decades-old issue is a painful chapter in relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo.

North Korea has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s, and returned five to Japan in 2002. It maintains the rest are dead - something Japan does not believe.

Mr Trump said of North Korea that he still believed that "lots of good things will come ... I may be right, I may be wrong, but I feel that."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trump and Mr Abe held talks at the Akasaka Palace on Monday

He also made mention of US relations with Iran, noting that Mr Abe was close to the leader of Iran.

"I do believe that Iran would like to talk and if they'd like to talk, we'd like to talk also," newswire AFP reported him as saying. "Nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me."

Mr Trump recently announced that the US would be sending 1,500 troops to the Middle East as tensions rise between the US and Iran.

The bilateral meeting comes after the two leaders met on Sunday to play golf and watch a sumo tournament together.

Mr Abe tweeted a selfie they took at the Mobara Country Club golf course, south of Tokyo.

The pair are regular golf partners, and Mr Trump has noted their "very, very good chemistry".