Trump and Abe tee off amid US-Japan trade tensions

  • President Donald Trump walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club Sunday in Chiba, Japan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

MOBARA, Japan — Golf never seems to be far behind whenever President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe get together.

So early today, during a four-day state visit to Japan, the president jumped aboard Marine One in Tokyo and flew south to the Mobara Country Club for a steamy morning round with the Japanese leader.

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Abe is Trump’s closest friend among world leaders and it’s the fifth time they played golf together since Trump took office. Abe’s strategy is to keep his country out of Trump’s crosshairs amid U.S.-Japan trade tensions and the continued threat North Korea poses to both nations.

Later in the day, Abe will introduce Trump to Japan’s ancient sport of sumo wrestling. The president will sit ringside at a championship match in Tokyo featuring the oversized athletes. He’ll also present the winner with his own “President’s Cup” trophy.

A motorcade of golf carts ferried Abe to meet Trump. They exchanged a warm handshake and patted each other on the forearms and posed for a throng of journalists.

Abe told reporters as he left for the country club that the day’s weather was great for golf and “it seems we are in a good mood for sumo.”

Neither leader spoke at the club before they climbed into a golf cart with Abe at the wheel. Trump ignored a shouted question from a U.S. reporter about whether he believed North Korea had violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Earlier Trump downplayed North Korea’s recent series of short-range missile tests. He tweeted that the tests weren’t a concern for him — even though they are for Japan.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump wrote in a message that appeared to contradict his national security adviser, John Bolton, who told reporters Saturday the tests violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Trump said he “has confidence” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will keep his promise to me.

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The president also sought to manage expectations that he and Abe will make significant headway on trade issues when they hold formal talks on Monday. Trump has been seeking a bilateral trade agreement with Tokyo since he pulled the U.S. out of the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement two years ago, though analysts expect no breakthroughs during Trump’s visit.

Fox News Channel’s White House Correspondent John Roberts tweeted that Trump telephoned him this morning in Tokyo and told Roberts that he intended to wait until after Japan’s parliamentary elections in July to push for a deal.

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