TOKYO – President Trump’s first meal in Japan on Sunday was a hamburger. He was then presented with a hat by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resembling his own Make America Great Again caps.
After that, it was time for a round of golf featuring Trump, the Prime Minister and one of the world’s top professionals.
Here’s how Abe – through a translator – recapped the game:
“The match was a neck-and-neck competition, in my opinion.”
Suffice it to say, Abe’s flattery of Trump has been a major theme of the three-day state visit.
Yujin Yaguchi is a Professor of American studies at the University of Tokyo:
“I haven’t seen that level of attention given to other world leaders.”
It’s not an accident Prime Minister Abe is so focused on padding Trump’s ego, explains Ken Endo, an advisor to Japan’s foreign ministry. Between China, an unreliable South Korea or the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, Japan is need of reliable friends.
“The United States is the only one that [we] might be able to rely on.”
But flattery isn’t always a two-way street, as Trump proved at a press conference Monday:
“You’ve built one of the world’s most powerful economies. I don’t know if it’s as good as ours. I think not. And we’re going to try and keep it that way. But you’ll be second.”
Abe laughed off that remark, and he had reason to.
His decision late last year to pursue a close relationship with Trump is starting to pay dividends. While Trump has complained about a trade imbalance with Japan, it’s China is being formally investigated for unfair trade practices.
“If he put ahead the Japan issue ahead of the China issue, than Japan might be concerned.”
In the age of Trump, maybe being the butt of a joke isn’t so bad, as long you’re invited to another round of golf.