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FM Kono comments on Abe-Trump relationship amid uproar over President’s alleged “Pearl Harbor” remark

Foreign Minister Taro Kono delivered a speech in Tokyo on Aug. 29, where he commented on the relationship between the leaders of Japan and the U.S. citing President Donald Trump’s imposition of steep tariffs on Japan. He said: “They have a good relationship but this has nothing to do (with trade negotiations).” He thus indicated that even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe often emphasizes his honeymoon with Trump, their relationship does not necessarily influence the U.S. administration’s policy decisions.


The Washington Post reported on Aug. 28 that Trump told Abe: “I remember Pearl Harbor” at their summit meeting in June, expressing his strong dissatisfaction with the U.S.’s trade deficit with Japan. The Washington Post also claimed that Trump completely ignored Abe’s advice on North Korea issues.


Although Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated at his news conference on Aug. 29 that “there is no truth to the report,” the Japanese government is scrambling to quiet down the uproar.


Kono said in his speech: “Personal relations are important in diplomacy,” stressing that Abe and Trump are very close, having “held 26 teleconferences that sometimes lasted over one hour.” On the other hand, he touched on the U.S.’s imposition of steep tariffs on steel products for security reasons, complaining that “when we said ‘Japanese steel products are a different case,’ they told us ‘no, this has nothing to do [with the leaders’ relationship]’ and tariffs were slapped on the products.”


He also indicated that it is very difficult to build a relationship with Trump, observing that “Shinzo and Trump are good friends and they play golf together, but we find ourselves in a fix if they say that is irrelevant.”

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