Ja­pan’s charm cam­paign ready to roll: Golf, sumo await Trump

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jill Colvin and Dar­lene Su­perville As­so­ci­ated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) >> Un­der the threat of po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing U.S. tar­iffs on au­tos, Ja­pan is ready to roll out the new­est phase of its charm of­fen­sive tar­get­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as it wel­comes him on a state visit tai­lor-made to his whims and ego.

Of­fer­ing high hon­ors, golf and the chance to present a “Trump Cup” at a sumo wrestling cham­pi­onship, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, ar­guably Trump’s closest friend on the world stage, will con­tinue a years-long cam­paign that so far ap­pears to have spared Ja­pan from far more de­bil­i­tat­ing U.S. ac­tions.

The stakes are high. U.S. tar­iffs could crip­ple Ja­pan’s auto in­dus­try, while North Korea re­mains a desta­bi­liz­ing threat in the re­gion. But this trip, the first of two Trump is ex­pected to make to Ja­pan in the next six weeks, is more of so­cial call meant to high­light the alliance be­tween the coun­tries and the friend­ship be­tween their lead­ers.

“In the world of Don­ald Trump, ter­ri­ble things can hap­pen if you’re an ally, but no ma­jor blows have landed on Ja­pan,” said Michael Green, se­nior vice pres­i­dent for Asia and Ja­pan chair at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and

In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Trump, who de­parted Washington for Tokyo on Fri­day, has the honor of be­ing the first head of state in­vited to meet Em­peror Naruhito since he as­sumed power May 1 after his fa­ther stepped down, the first ab­di­ca­tion in about two centuries. Naruhito will wel­come Trump to the Im­pe­rial Palace on Mon­day for a meet­ing and ban­quet in his honor.

“With all the coun­tries of the world, I’m the guest of honor at the big­gest event that they’ve had in over 200 years,” Trump said Thurs­day.

Abe will host Trump on Sun­day for a round of golf and take the pres­i­dent to a sumo wrestling match, a sport Trump said he finds “fas­ci­nat­ing.” Trump is ea­ger to present the win­ner with a U.S.-made tro­phy.

It’s all part of a kind­ness cam­paign aimed at en­cour­ag­ing Trump to al­le­vi­ate trade pres­sures, said Riley Wal­ters, a pol­icy an­a­lyst at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s Asian Stud­ies Cen­ter, who said the per­sonal re­la­tion­ship be­tween Trump and Abe is prob­a­bly the best of any two world lead­ers.

Abe made a strate­gic de­ci­sion be­fore Trump was elected to fo­cus on his re­la­tion­ship with the U.S. The courtship be­gan when Abe rushed to New York two weeks after the Novem­ber 2016 elec­tion to meet the pres­i­dent-elect at Trump Tower. Last month, Abe and his wife, Akie, cel­e­brated first lady Me­la­nia Trump’s birth­day over a cou­ples’ din­ner at the White House.

Trump plans to re­turn to Ja­pan for a sum­mit of lead­ing rich and de­vel­op­ing na­tions in Osaka in late June.

Be­hind the smiles and per­sonal friend­ship, how­ever, lurks deep un­easi­ness over Trump’s threat to im­pose tar­iffs on Ja­panese au­tos and auto parts on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds, a move that would be far more dev­as­tat­ing to the Ja­panese econ­omy than ear­lier tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum.

SU­SAN WALSH - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, right, speaks April 26 while meet­ing with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, left, in the Oval Of­fice of the White House in Washington. Trump’s Ja­pan visit start­ing on Satur­day is to fo­cus on per­sonal ties with Abe rather than sub­stan­tive re­sults on trade, se­cu­rity or North Korea.

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