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World News

Japan's new prime minister Suga, Trump hold first talks by phone

FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference following his confirmation as Prime Minister of Japan in Tokyo, Japan September 16, 2020. Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he and U.S. President Donald Trump had held their first telephone conversation on Sunday since Suga took over as Japan’s new leader.

Suga on Wednesday became Japan’s first new leader in nearly eight years, succeeding Shinzo Abe. Abe had forged close ties with Trump, playing golf together and engaging in frequent phone calls and meetings.

“I told him the Japan-U.S. alliance was the foundation of regional peace and stability,” Suga told reporters after the talks. “We agreed to coordinate closely.”

Suga faces a delicate balancing act in keeping Japan’s relations with the United States and China on track, as the two are locked in growing confrontation.

“The president also said he wanted me to call him at any time, 24 hours, if something ever happened,” Suga said.

During the 25-minute phone talk, Trump and Suga briefly exchanged their views on China, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai told a media briefing, but declined to elaborate.

Sakai said the two leaders had agreed to press ahead with bilateral cooperation in the development of COVID-19 medication and vaccines, and to cooperate closely on North Korea-related matters, including the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North decades ago.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by David Clarke and Raissa Kasolowksy

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