TOKYO — With a spherical of golf, a customized cap and a hamburger of American beef, President Donald Trump’sstarted with a style of residence.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed Mr. Trump to Japan Sunday with an effusive show of friendship that, within the days forward, will give technique to high-stakes diplomacy. The 2 leaders, who’ve struck up an unlikely however simple rapport, shared an off-the-cuff lunch and performed 9 holes on the Kasumigaseki Nation Membership, joined by skilled golfer Hideki Matsuyama.
The low-key agenda was a prelude to the formal talks, a press convention and state dinner deliberate in Tokyo Monday. Abe might be in search of a united entrance towards North Korea and reassurances that the U.S. will stand by its treaty obligations to defend Japan if attacked.
Desirous to forge a bond with Tokyo’s essential ally, Abe was one of many first world leaders to court docket President-elect Trump. He was the primary to name Mr. Trump after the election, and rushed to New York days later to fulfill the president-elect and current him with an expensive, gold Honma golf driver. The 2 males additionally met on the sidelines of a world summit in Italy this spring and Mr. Trump. White Home officers mentioned Mr. Trump has spoken with Abe by cellphone greater than any world chief, other than British Prime Minister Theresa Could.
That bond was clear on Sunday.
“The connection is de facto extraordinary. We like one another and our nations like one another,” Mr. Trump mentioned Sunday night time earlier than dinner with Abe, who for this meal did present Mr. Trump conventional delicacies with a teppanyaki dinner. “And I do not suppose we have ever been nearer to Japan than we’re proper now.”
Mr. Trump and Abe additionally exchanged glowing tweets about their golf. Mr. Trump dubbed Abe and Matsuyama “great individuals,” whereas Abe referred to as it a “spherical of golf with a fabulous good friend.”
Abe instructed reporters after the golf session that the 2 might speak frankly in a relaxed ambiance whereas out on the course. He mentioned they had been capable of “perform in depth dialogue, at occasions bearing on varied troublesome points.” A senior White Home official, briefing reporters on situation of anonymity, mentioned the pair had mentioned commerce and North Korea — however did not maintain rating.
From the time Marine One landed on the Kasumigaseki Nation Membership’s driving vary, Abe rolled out little touches to make Mr. Trump really feel welcome. He introduced a hat that had a model of Mr. Trump’s marketing campaign theme, this time studying “Donald and Shinzo: Make Alliance Even Larger.” The 2 handed up the area’s famed Kobe beef in favor of the American model, which is favored by Trump, a famed choosy eater.
When Mr. Trump hosted Abe in Palm Seashore earlier this 12 months, they performed at one in every of Trump’s Florida golf programs. For that outing, Mr. Trump introduced alongside professional golfer Ernie Els, so this time Abe matched him by bringing alongside Matsuyama, whom Mr. Trump described on the airplane journey to Asia as “in all probability the best participant within the historical past of Japan.” Abe was behind the wheel of a golf cart as the 2 males had been noticed transferring from gap to gap — Mr. Trump within the passenger seat smiling and waving at these they handed.
“From the viewpoint of Abe administration, the private chemistry that exists between the 2 leaders is seen as an asset,” mentioned Mireya Sollis, chair in Japan Research for the Brookings Middle for East Asia Coverage Research. She mentioned that the Japanese consider it’s already “seeing it repay,” together with when Mr. Trump agreed to fulfill with the households of Japanese residents kidnapped by the North Korean regime, an necessary subject for Tokyo.
Ever since Saudi Arabiaon Mr. Trump’s first worldwide journey, leaders have tried to outdo themselves to impress the president, who has confirmed vulnerable to flattery.
Earlier than the sport, Mr. Trump delivered a speech by which he hailed Japan as a “essential ally” and warned adversaries to not take a look at America’s resolve.
“Japan is a treasured accomplice and essential ally of america and as we speak we thank them for welcoming us and for many years of great friendship between our two nations,” Trump instructed American and Japanese service members at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Although Mr. Trump didn’t point out North Korea by identify through the speech, the spectre of its weapons program will loom giant all through Mr. Trump’s five-nation Asia journey. The president warned of the results of crossing what he referred to as the “most fearsome preventing drive within the historical past of our world.”
“Along with our allies, America’s warriors are ready to defend our nation utilizing the complete vary of our unmatched capabilities. Nobody — no dictator, no regime and no nation — ought to underestimate, ever, American resolve,” he instructed the troops.
And whereas there may be fear within the area about Mr. Trump’s unpredictable response to the menace posed by Kim Jong Un, Mr. Trump made clear he didn’t intend to tone down his bellicose rhetoric — together with dubbing Kim Jong Un as “” — even whereas in an Asian capital inside attain of the North Korea dictator’s missiles.
“There’s been 25 years of complete weak spot, so we’re taking a really a lot completely different strategy,” he mentioned, chatting with reporters on Air Power One.
Mr. Trump additionally mentioned it’s “anticipated” that he’ll meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an upcoming summit in Asia. Mr. Trump instructed reporters on Air Power One which he “will need Putin’s assist” in coping with the North Korea nuclear disaster.
Isaac Stone Fish, a senior fellow on the Asia Society’s Middle on U.S.-China Relations, mentioned that on the one hand, it’s useful for Mr. Trump to fulfill with Putin to debate Syria and North Korea.
“Russia is, whereas not an ally of North Korea, a reasonably necessary buying and selling accomplice for the nation, and it’s useful to have Russia on board, for the administration,” he mentioned. “Alternatively … there may be a lot fear about Trump’s relationship with Russia. And the place issues are domestically, it isn’t good optics for him to essentially achieve this.”
In the case of Japan, the straightforward rapport with the nation could possibly be strained if Mr. Trump takes an aggressive strategy on commerce or the 2 males disagree on how finest to strategy the menace looming in Pyongyang. Throughout his marketing campaign, Mr. Trump steered Japan ought to purchase its personal nuclear weapons to defend itself, hinted the U.S. won’t come to the nation’s protection, and accused Japan of “killing us” on commerce. He has dropped that antagonist language nearly solely for the reason that election, however tensions stay.
Scott Seaman, a director for Asia of the Eurasia Group, a political threat marketing consultant group, famous: “every little thing is ok with Trump till you inform him no. Thus far, Abe hasn’t instructed him no.”