Is Abe losing confidence in Trump and his friendship?
Emerging from the Trump Tower in New York City in November 2016, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was convinced that Donald Trump “is a leader in whom I can have confidence”. Abe became the first head of government to visit the US president-elect, and since then he has been busy trying to forge a close relationship with Trump, with their common outdoor pursuit — golf — acting as a lubricant.
“When you play golf with someone not just once, but two times, the person must be your favorite guy,” Abe said in November last year when Trump visited Japan.
During his Tokyo visit, Trump said he enjoyed every minute of the time he spent with Abe. Their chemistry, as Trump called it, does not necessarily mean Japan is in Trump’s good books, especially as Trump’s latest decisions have shocked, if not scared, Tokyo.
When Trump agreed to meet with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, Japan felt left out. Learning of Trump’s plans, Abe immediately announced he would visit the US president in April, a month before the planned Trump-Kim meeting.
It is not hard to understand Japan’s sense of alienation. Japan was the staunchest supporter of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the DPRK, saying “talks for the sake of talks” would be unacceptable.