Trump and Abe shut media out for a bit of fairways diplomacy
JUPITER, Fla. — President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe largely disappeared from public view for more than three hours here Saturday at one of Trump’s signature golf courses for what was billed as fairways diplomacy.
In a picture the administration posted on social media, Trump, wearing a white Make America Great Again hat, appeared to be high-fiving Abe as the two leaders shared their passion for golf. They were joined by Ernie Els, a pro golfer from South Africa.
The media were largely kept away from the morning outing at Trump National Golf Club, which was meant as one of several bonding opportunities during Abe’s visit this weekend to South Florida. Abe and his wife have been staying at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in nearby Palm Beach.
A media pool traveled in Trump’s motorcade to the luxurious club, where an oversize American flag greets golfers entering the clubhouse, but reporters were not offered a glimpse of the two men. After Trump and Abe had entered, journalists — including a Japanese contingent — were led to a basement suite where windows were covered with black plastic so they couldn’t see out.
Trump and Abe traveled later Saturday to a third Trump property in the region, the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, where aides said they had lunch.
Both men and their wives dined together back at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night and made a joint appearance in front of a group of reporters outside the main entrance. Trump said the visit was going “very, very well” but ignored shouted questions about a reported missile launch by North Korea and whether he retains confidence in his national security adviser.
The White House’s decision to keep the traveling press pool from seeing Trump and Abe golfing together was something of a departure from past administrations.
Although Barack Obama golfed several hundred times while serving as president, his outings with dignitaries were often open to the press pool, so photographers and other journalists could document the occasion.
When Obama held a similar summit in 2013 with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Sunnylands estate in California, the media were provided several opportunities to see the two leaders interacting, including when they took a leisurely walk around the grounds of the estate.
CNN, from a distant camera that was not part of the traveling press pool, was able to capture some of the Abe-Trump meeting.
Trump, who has operated 17 golf courses around the world, is said to be one of the best golfers in presidential history. Abe is a little more modest about his abilities.
“My scores in golf is not up to the level of Donald at all,” Abe said in a joint news conference the two leaders held Friday in Washington, according to a translator.
Speaking of their planned golf engagement, Abe added that “in a relaxed atmosphere, I hope to take time to discuss with Donald on the future of the world, future of the region, and future of Japan and the United States.”
Trump, meanwhile, once told radio network Westwood One Sports: “That’s the one thing about golf: You get to know somebody better on a golf course than you will over lunch.”
This is the second weekend in a row Trump has showcased his golf clubs during a visit to Florida. Last weekend, he hosted a Super Bowl party at the West Palm Beach club.
When Trump and Abe headed to that property Saturday afternoon, the media was diverted to a library across the street. Trump aides did not immediately provide information about what was taking place.
Even before this weekend’s visit, Abe had played on Trump’s fondness for the game to try to build their fledgling relationship. During a visit to Trump Tower in New York before Trump was sworn in, Abe presented the president-elect with a $3,755 gold-colored driver.
Abe and Trump have been together in South Florida since Friday afternoon, when they flew down from Washington together with their wives on Air Force One.
The two women toured the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, located just west of Delray Beach, on Saturday morning, as their husbands prepared to hit the links.