Japanese PM's golf diplomacy with US President scores on the home front


Japanese PM Shinzo Abe turns to golf diplomacy in pitch to gain Trump edge. Trump greeted Abe with a hug when he visited at White House this month.

Playing golf and dining in Florida with US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won applauses from the Japanese public, suggesting a more pragmatic view toward engagement with the new US President than in Europe and North America.

Earlier, Trump greeted Abe with a hug when he arrived at the White House this month. The pair reaffirmed their countries’ military alliance and avoided criticism — easing anxiety over Trump’s complaints about Japan’s currency and trade policies and financial support for US forces. That contrasted with a more workmanlike visit days later by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has sought to contrast Trump’s policies with his own.

Abe’s visit played well in Japan, with two-thirds of respondents to a poll published Monday by the Yomiuri newspaper saying they approved of the trip. Support for Abe’s Cabinet rose 5 percentage points to 66 percent, almost the same level as when he took office in December 2012.

While opposition lawmakers criticised Abe, the Prime Minister said a good relationship with the US was necessary. Japan, whose military is hemmed in by a pacifist Constitution, relies on its only treaty ally for a ‘nuclear umbrella’ to deter a rising China and unpredictable North Korea. The US is also Japan’s second-largest trading partner, behind China.

While surveys show disapproval of Trump is widespread among the Japanese, critics have been relatively quiet. There has been no major public opposition to an invitation for Trump to visit Japan, unlike in the UK, where more than 1.8 million people signed a petition to prevent him from meeting Queen Elizabeth II, and the speaker of the House of Commons said the president shouldn’t be allowed to address Parliament.

Abe has been direct in his praise since Trump’s election win, calling the billionaire real estate mogul a ‘very successful businessman with extraordinary talents.’ The prime minister presented Trump with a golf club in New York later that month, when he became the first foreign leader to meet the then-president-elect.

The two men may have more in common than it first seems. Japan has a record of accepting only a tiny number of refugees and Abe hasn’t criticised Trump over limiting entry to the US, Abe has in the past lashed out at the press and sought to communicate directly with the public, though he hasn’t gone as far as Trump in condemning the mainstream media as ‘enemies of the people.

"Ideologically, Abe has much more in common with Trump than former President Barack Obama," said Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. “He was singularly focused on building ties with Trump, with no interest in his jarring stance against liberal democratic norms.”

Sources: Japan Times and Agencies

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.