TOKYO: With an imperial banquet, a day at the sumo and an obligatory 18 holes, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is again rolling out the red carpet for his “golf buddy” Donald Trump.
This time, Japan seems to be hoping to position itself as a more amenable partner than China and the European Union in Washington’s trade negotiations and to secure more favourable terms from the mercurial US president during his trip.
From the moment Abe visited Trump Towers — before the tycoon was even sworn in — the Japanese prime minister’s strategy has been to cozy up to Trump, helped by a shared love of golf which has seen them frequently squeeze in a round between meetings.
Trump’s visit starting Saturday is no different — the Japanese reserved for their US ally the honour of being first to meet the new emperor at the dawn of a fresh imperial era and are indulging his curiosity about sumo, allowing him to present a cup to the winning wrestler.
Abe has “correctly ascertained that a conflictual or demeaning relationship with Trump will result in hardline, bullying tactics by the president,” noted analyst Stephen Nagy in a recent piece in the Japan Times.
The Japanese PM has “chosen to flatter and to engage in bilateral relations that resonate with the ‘America First’ mantra Trump used during the election and now as president,” said Nagy, professor at the International Christian University based in Tokyo.