By David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will play a round of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida this week and said he will make sure the Japanese leader is his partner in the game, rather than a competitor.
Trump, who is due to welcome Abe at the White House on Friday, told Westwood One Sports Radio on Sunday that golf was a better way to get to know someone than having lunch. A transcript of the interview was made available by the White House.
Asked whether he would have a bet on the round, expected to be played at Trump's Mar-a-Lago private resort in Palm Beach on Saturday, the president replied: "I don’t know.I think - I know he loves the game, and we’re going to have a lot of fun. It won’t matter.I’ll just make sure he’s my partner."
Trump raised worries in Japan during his presidential campaign when he appeared to question the long-standing U.S. alliance with Tokyo and said it was not sharing enough of the cost of the American security umbrella, a charge he has leveled at other U.S. allies.
In a speech on Monday at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Trump said the United States "stands with those who stand in defense of freedom," but reiterated the importance of "getting our allies to pay their fair share."
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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrapped up a visit to Japan on Saturday reaffirming Washington's commitment to its defense treaty with the Asian country.
Security, trade and currency policy are expected to dominate the meeting with Abe. Trump has criticized the lack of access to Japan's auto market for U.S. manufacturers and has accused Tokyo of using monetary policy to devalue its currency. He has also lumped Japan with China and Mexico as big contributors to America's trade deficit.
Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Trump after his November election win.
Trump is expected to seek quick progress toward a two-way trade deal with Japan after abandoning U.S. participation in a 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade pact.
Japan is putting together a package of plans for Japanese companies to invest in infrastructure and job-creation projects in the United States for Abe to take to Washington. Abe is also considering increasing energy imports from the United States, according to sources familiar with the plan.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Tom Brown and Jonathan Oatis)