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Trump's Japan visit to honor alliance

By CAI HONG | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-27 07:05
US President Donald Trump talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a couples dinner with first lady Melania Trump and Abe's wife Akie in Tokyo, Japan, May 26, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The state visit of United States President Donald Trump to Japan began on Sunday morning with a round of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, followed by the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament where the US leader presented the President's Cup to the winner.

The centerpiece of the trip will be Trump's time on Monday with newly installed Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who has heralded the start of the new reign. The royal couple will host, as is traditional for state visits, a formal dinner banquet for Trump on Monday.

Trump is the first foreign leader to make a state visit to Japan since the May 1 enthronement of Naruhito.

This is widely believed to underscore the importance of the Japan-US relationship, experts said.

In Tokyo Business Today, Daniel Sneider, a lecturer on international policy at Stanford University, called Trump's visit "almost completely free of serious policy discussion, but laden with policy purpose".

The schedule for the visit is a carefully orchestrated series of message moments, Sneider said. "And the first and most important purpose is to showcase the personal relationship between the two men, one cultivated by Abe and the Japanese government to an extent that dwarfs similar efforts by other governments around the globe," he said.

Abe has met and spoken by phone with Trump more than 40 times and has been twice invited to the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. And this is Trump's second visit to Japan since occupying the White House.

Sneider said the symbolic significance of Trump's encounter with Japan's new emperor cannot be underestimated, adding that the Japanese government's central goal in organizing this trip was to make sure that the US president was the first foreign leader to see the new emperor.

In a blog, Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that the pomp and circumstance planned for this visit by Trump to Japan reveals just how important the leader-to-leader approach has been to Abe.

The ceremonial and symbolic nature of his visit aside, Trump will be taken to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture, on Monday to board the Japanese helicopter carrier Kaga.

Trump will be the first US president in modern history to set foot on a Japanese warship.

The Japanese government, and Abe personally, want this visit to showcase the close security ties between the two allies.

Though analysts believed that trade will not be the focus of the visit, Trump brought up trade with leaders from some of Japan's leading companies, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan, on Saturday evening.

"Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years, but that's OK, maybe that's why you like us so much," Reuters quoted him as saying.

The US and Japan are negotiating a trade deal.

"With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove the barriers to US exports and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship," Trump said.

Trump decided to delay new auto tariffs as his administration negotiates bilateral trade agreements with Japan and Europe-but only for six months.

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