President Donald Trump on Friday described the US alliance with Japan as a cornerstone of regional peace and stability following his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House. He said the US is committed to Japan's security.
At a joint press conference, both the leaders expressed commitment for closer security and trade ties between the two nations.
In contrast to Trump’s harsh campaign rhetoric against Japan, the meeting featured brotherly hugs, smiles, jokes and plenty of words of mutual admiration.
Trump, during the run up to November’s election, had accused Japan of taking advantage of US security aid and stealing American jobs.
"We are committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control and to further strengthening our very crucial alliance," Trump said.
A joint US-Japanese statement said the US commitment to defend Japan through nuclear and conventional military capabilities is unwavering.
Japan got continued US backing for its dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea that China also claims.
The statement said the two leaders affirmed that Article 5 of the US-Japan security treaty covered the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
They departed later for Palm Beach, Florida, for a weekend stay at Trump's Mar-a-Lago retreat with their wives.
Abe invited Trump for a visit to Japan this year and Trump accepted. US Vice President Mike Pence will make an early stop in Tokyo.
But uncertainty remained in another area, that of trade, after Trump abruptly pulled the US out of the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Abe said he was "fully aware" of Trump's decision to withdraw from the multilateral trade accord. But he said Japan and the US had agreed on a new framework for economic dialogue.
"I am quite optimistic that ... good results will be seen from the dialogue," he said, adding that Japan was looking for a fair, common set of rules for trade in the region.
The Mar-a-Lago visit will be Trump's first use of his Florida getaway for diplomatic purposes.
It will also be the most time Trump will have spent with a foreign leader since taking power last month and his second face-to-face meeting with a key ally after talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May two weeks ago.
Trump hosted Abe at Trump Tower last year in his first talks with a foreign leader after his surprise win in the November presidential election.