Gold plated golf clubs: How Japans PM courts Pres Trump

Mar 2012
New Hampshire
Abe, who came to office in 2012 determined to cement the U.S.-Japan alliance, has fully embraced the belief that developing a personal rapport with the president is the way to score diplomatic concessions. Over a courtship that has lasted more than two years, Abe has personally delivered a gold-plated golf club to the president-elect at Trump Tower and, at least by Trump’s account, recently nominated the president for the Nobel Peace Prize in honor of his nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.

The actions reflect the huge stakes for Abe in his relationship with Trump. His island nation relies on America for protection against a rising China, fears Trump’s threatened tariffs on auto imports, and is trying to reverse tariffs Trump has already imposed on steel and aluminum industries.

Now, as his country jump-starts trade negotiations with the U.S. — a Japanese delegation was in Washington Monday and Tuesday meeting with Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthizer — Abe is redoubling his efforts to keep Trump’s ear. And with Trump planning to return the favor by making two visits to Japan in May and June, Japanese officials are still trying to figure out, and cater to, the impulsive president on whom they rely so heavily.

Abe’s model of personal diplomacy reflects the approach of other leaders from Asia to the Middle East to Europe who have wooed Trump with a deeply personal approach to diplomacy that has redefined statecraft in the Trump era, in which personal relationships and extravagant flattery are stand-ins for strategic arguments about national interest.

The question is what the Japanese have gotten for their labors. Abe’s critics have mocked him for obsequious behavior that’s had little payoff, as when Trump refused to exempt Japan from the steel and aluminum tariffs he slapped on several nations last March.

Gold-plated golf clubs and birthday bashes: How Abe courts Trump

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