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PM Abe to play golf, hold intensive talks with President Trump in U.S.

During his visit to the U.S. later this month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will stay for two nights and hold discussions with President Donald Trump at his estate in Mar-a-Lago in southern Florida. The two leaders are expected to engage in an intensive exchange of views while playing golf.

 

With the North-South summit taking place on April 27 and U.S.-DPRK summit talks expected to be held before the end of May, the Japanese government is concerned that it might be left behind in the discussions on North Korea issues. This visit is likely to become a litmus test of Abe’s “honeymoon” with Trump.

 

Abe announced the itinerary for his U.S. visit from April 17-20 at a liaison meeting of the government and the ruling parties on April 2. In a subsequent meeting with Katsuyuki Kawai, special assistant to the Liberal Democratic Party president for foreign affairs, Kawai noted, “This will be your most important summit meeting.” Wearing a stern expression, Abe replied, “That’s right.”

 

Abe immediately decided to visit the U.S. when Trump told him about his plan to hold summit talks with North Korea over the phone in early March. At first, the target date for the visit was early April, but this was delayed due to confusion in the White House on account of the dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other developments, so arrangements were made for Abe to visit from April 17-19.

 

However, a proposal emerged subsequently for the two leaders to stay at Mar-a-Lago and play golf like they did in February last year. Playing golf and spending substantial time with Trump will be extremely beneficial for Abe’s communication with him. Therefore, even though Abe has an appointment on April 20 that cannot be cancelled, he managed to shuffle his schedule to return home just in time for the appointment.

 

Abe is looking into the possibility of holding a Japan-DPRK summit behind the scenes in an attempt to fix his domestic political woes through diplomacy. However, the prospects remain uncertain for the bilateral summit at this point. In reality, he has no choice but to rely on Trump even in finding a solution to the abduction issue, which is his top priority.

 

Trump is becoming increasingly aggressive in economic and trade issues. It is possible that he may press Abe to agree to start negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). Since Abe has been able to build trust with Trump by playing golf with him on two occasions in the past, an informed source emphasized that “golf is important.”

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