© Reuters. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is welcomed by Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo© Reuters. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is welcomed by Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso this week that he favored a bilateral trade deal – which Tokyo opposes – to fix trade imbalances, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday.

During a 20 minute-meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, Pence and Aso exchanged views following President Donald Trump’s recent remark that he might be willing to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), if it were renegotiated to benefit the United States, the sources said.

“We’d like to encourage the United States to rejoin TPP, but we want to prevent the issue of trade imbalances flaring up,” one of the sources said on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak to media.

The two sides did not discuss specific sectoral issues such as exports of automobiles and shipments of beef, on which Washington had pushed for fewer restrictions during working-level talks in late January, they added.

Pence, who visited Japan on his way to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, told a news conference on Wednesday that Washington wanted to promote growth based on “free and fair” trade but that regional security issues were the main reason for his visit.

Last month, William Hagerty, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said Washington wanted to see progress on cutting Japan’s trade surplus and forging a bilateral framework by spring.

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