With a hug and a handshake, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened a new chapter in U.S.-Japan relations on Friday with Trump abruptly setting aside campaign pledges to force Tokyo to pay more for U.S. defense aid.
The two leaders appeared to have established a quick friendship during a day of talks at the White House and a flight together aboard Air Force One to Florida for a weekend of golf.
At a joint news conference with Abe, Trump avoided repeating harsh campaign rhetoric that accused Japan of taking advantage of U.S. security aid and stealing American jobs.
It was a welcome affirmation for Japan in the face of challenges such as China's maritime expansion and North Korea's nuclear and missile development.
"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. "The bond between our two nations and the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep. This administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer," he added.
A joint U.S.-Japanese statement said the U.S. commitment to defend Japan through nuclear and conventional military capabilities is unwavering.
The statement amounted to a victory for Abe, who came to Washington wanting to develop a sense of trust and friendship with the new U.S. president and send a message that the decades-old alliance is unshakable.
Japan got continued U.S. 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 U.S.-Japan security treaty covered the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
Abe invited Trump for a visit to Japan this year and Trump accepted. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will make an early stop in Tokyo.