Trump and Abe tee off amid US-Japan trade tensions


PTI, May 26, 2019, 11:27 AM IST

Mobara (Japan): Golf never seems to be far behind whenever President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe get together.

So on Sunday, during a four-day state visit to Japan, the president jumped aboard the Marine One helicopter in Tokyo and flew south to the Mobara Country Club for a steamy morning round with the Japanese leader.

Abe is Trump’s closest friend among world leaders and it’s the fifth time they played golf together since Trump took office. Abe’s strategy is to keep his country out of Trump’s crosshairs amid US-Japan trade tensions and the continued threat North Korea poses to both nations.

Later in the day, Abe will introduce Trump to Japan’s ancient sport of sumo wrestling. The president will sit ringside at a championship match in Tokyo featuring the oversized athletes. He’ll also present the winner with his own “President’s Cup” trophy.

The leaders will also venture into Tokyo for a dinner double date with their wives.

A motorcade of golf carts ferried Abe to meet Trump when he arrived at the club. They exchanged a warm handshake, patted each other on the forearms and posed for a throng of journalists. Abe wore white pants and a dark blue sport coat. Trump wore a red half-zip pullover with a white shirt and dark pants. Japanese television later broadcast aerial footage of Trump swinging his club on the course.

Trump tweeted that he was “Going to play golf right now with @AbeShinzo. Japan loves the game.”

Abe told reporters as he left for Mobara that Sunday’s weather was great for golf and “it seems we are in a good mood for sumo.”

Neither leader spoke to reporters at the club before they climbed into a golf cart with Abe at the wheel. Trump ignored a shouted question from a US reporter about whether he believed North Korea had violated UN Security Council resolutions.

Earlier Trump downplayed North Korea’s recent series of short-range missile tests. He tweeted that the tests weren’t a concern for him even though they are for Japan.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump wrote in a message that appeared to undermine his national security adviser, John Bolton, who told reporters Saturday the tests violated UN Security Council resolutions.

Trump said he “has confidence” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will keep his promise to me.”

The president’s attendance at the annual summer sumo tournament in Tokyo may bring back memories of the time he spent promoting the World Wrestling Federation.

Trump is expected to sit ringside as the oversized men in loincloths grapple to win by pushing their opponents out of bounds or getting them to touch the floor with their body, except for the soles of their feet. Trump has said he finds the sport “fascinating.”

The trophy Trump plans to present to the winner stands nearly 5 feet tall and weighs between 60 and 70 pounds, the White House said. The news media has dubbed it the “Trump Cup.” The White House said it is called the “President’s Cup.”

The president also sought to manage expectations that he and Abe will make significant headway on trade issues when they hold more formal talks on Monday. Trump has been seeking a bilateral trade agreement with Tokyo since he pulled the US out of the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement two years ago, though analysts expect no breakthroughs during Trump’s visit.

The president arrived in Japan on Saturday with his wife, first lady Melania Trump, to open the four-day visit.

On Monday, Trump will become the first head of state to meet with Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, since he ascended to the throne on May 1.

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