One day before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s first meeting with a foreign leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese officials said they had not finalized when or where in New York it would take place, who would be invited, or in some cases whom to call for answers.
Uncertainty over the talks shows the difficulties in turning Trump from a freewheeling businessman into a sitting president with a watertight schedule and a fully functioning administration by his inauguration on Jan. 20.
Japanese and U.S. officials said on Wednesday the State Department had not been involved in planning the meeting, leaving the logistical and protocol details that normally would be settled far in advance still to be determined.
“There has been a lot of confusion,” said one Japanese official.
The meeting was only agreed to last week and Trump and his advisers have been busy in meetings at his headquarters in Manhattan’s Trump Tower in recent days to work out who gets which job in the new administration.
While world leaders sometimes hold loosely planned bilateral meetings at regional summits, it is unusual for foreign leaders to hold high-level diplomatic talks in the United States without detailed planning. Abe is on his way to an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that to his knowledge, Trump’s transition team had not been in contact with the department either to discuss the transition of government or to seek information ahead of his meetings with foreign leaders.
Trump is expected to use the Abe meeting to reassure Japan and other Asian allies rattled by his campaign rhetoric, advisers to Trump said.
But Trump, a brash outsider with no diplomatic or government experience, and Abe, a veteran lawmaker, have differences on policy issues such as free trade.
Several Trump aides did not immediately answer requests on Wednesday for comment about the Abe visit or contact between the transition team and the State Department.