June 25, 2019
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Trump and Abe have first informal chat over golf as trade talks get underway

Tokyo, May 26 (efe-epa).- The president of the United States on Sunday had his first informal talks with the Japanese prime minister during a round of golf in southeast Tokyo as trade talks between the two nations got underway.

Although the winner of the round between Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump was not reported, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was played at Mobara Country Club and started at 9.45am local time, lasting two and a half hours. The course is situated in Chiba prefecture, an area that was hit by a moderate earthquake ahead of Trump's arrival Saturday.

The pair was joined on the course by veteran Japanese golfer Isao Aoki.

Abe and Trump "deepened their friendship amid a cozy atmosphere," according to the ministry.

Alongside a selfie taken with Trump on the course, Abe said in a tweet Sunday that he "would like to make the Japan-U. S. alliance even more unwavering in the new Japanese era." The new Reiwa era of Japan began on May 1 with the ascension of Emperor Naruhito to the throne.

“Great fun and meeting with Prime Minister @AbeShinzo. Numerous Japanese officials told me that the Democrats would rather see the United States fail than see me or the Republican Party succeed - Death Wish!” Trump tweeted.

Before the 16 holes, the two leaders had breakfast and afterwards had lunch consisting of double cheeseburgers with beef from the United States, the foreign ministry said.

Both wearing caps, Abe took the wheel of the golf cart they traveled in.

Meanwhile, the US leader also reported that “great progress (was) being made in our Trade Negotiations with Japan. Agriculture and beef heavily in play.”

“Much will wait until after their July elections where I anticipate big numbers!” he added, referring to Japan’s House of Councillors polls to elect 124 of 245 upper house members for a six-year term.

In the negotiations between US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi, the US is reportedly seeking greater access to the Japanese market in beef, pork and wheat products, among others.

Japan is expanding its markets in those sectors with products from Australia or New Zealand, thanks to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), from which the Trump administration withdrew.

Tokyo is reportedly calling for lower US tariffs on Japanese industrial products, including vehicles - one of its main exports.

Later Sunday, Trump is due to attend the final of a sumo wrestling tournament, where the US president will present a trophy to the winner.

The two leaders will then meet again over dinner with their respective wives, Akie Abe and Melania Trump, ahead of formal meetings on Monday, during which Trump will also be the first foreign leader to meet Emperor Naruhito.

Earlier Sunday, Trump had reiterated his “confidence” in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after Pyongyang's missile tests earlier in the month. Trump's stance was in direct contrast to his own national security adviser and host country Japan.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me,” Trump tweeted, apparently referring to what he has reported as a pledge by Kim to freeze the testing of missiles and nuclear weapons.

A day earlier, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said there was “no doubt" the ballistic missile launches violate UN Security Council resolutions. It’s a view also adopted by Tokyo.

Trump’s four-day visit began Saturday, welcomed by the Tokyo Skytree lit up in the Stars and Stripes.

It is the US president’s second state trip to Japan, after a visit in Nov. 2017, and it will end on May 28.

Abe and Trump have held 38 summit talks, including over the phone, during Trump’s term.


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Trump says he still has 'confidence' in the North Korean leader

Tokyo, May 26 (efe-epa).- The president of the United States reiterated Sunday his "confidence" in the North Korean leader despite Pyongyang launching missile tests earlier this month.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Donald Trump tweeted from Japan where he is on an official visit.

“I have confidence that Chairman Kim (Jong-un) will keep his promise to me,” he added, apparently referring to what he has reported as a pledge by Kim to freeze the testing of missiles and nuclear weapons.

The Pyongyang regime launched several short-range ballistic missiles on May 4 and 9 in tests overseen by the North Korean dictator. Some countries, including Japan, say the moves violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.

On Saturday in Tokyo, US National Security Adviser John Bolton also said there is “no doubt" the ballistic missile launches violate UN resolutions, in contrast to Trump's stance.

Both the US and one of its regional allies, South Korea, downplayed the importance of the tests earlier this month, which came amid the stalemate in negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

In his tweet, Trump also echoed recent North Korean criticism of former US vice-president Joe Biden, who was accused by Pyongyang of being a "fool of low-IQ."

The criticism made by North Korean state media emerged after Biden at a campaign launch in Philadelphia last week asked if the US had become “a nation that embraces dictators like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and Kim Jong-un," referring to Trump’s international ties.

An article by the official news agency KCNA said Biden was an "imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being."

Referring to those criticisms, Trump said today that he had "smiled" when North Korea called "Joe Bidan (sic) a low IQ individual, & worse."

"Perhaps that's sending me a signal?" the US president added in the tweet.

Trump was scheduled to play a round of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Sunday and later attend the final of a sumo wrestling tournament.

On Monday he will be received by the new emperor, Naruthito, and will meet with Abe.


Trump brings his own prize to Japan's sumo wrestling championship

Tokyo, May 26 (EFE).- Japan's ancient sporting tradition was getting an infusion of the Trump brand Sunday when President Trump becomes the first American leader to present a trophy to the winner of a sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo, according to a report by Dow Jones Newswires made available to EFE.

The event is part of Trump's four-day visit to Japan's capital to meet the country's newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito.

The ancient sport has slowly become more mainstream, to the chagrin of some traditionalist sumo fans. Foreign athletes are increasingly joining the ranks of the world's most renowned sumo wrestlers, and matches, known as honbasho, are drawing more curious tourists.

The trophy -- which the Japanese press is referring to as the "Trump Cup" -- is approximately 4-and-a-half feet tall, weighs between 60 and 70 pounds, and has an eagle on top, according to a senior White House official. The trophy is taller than the more traditional Emperor's Cup, presented to winners annually, which stands 3 1/2 feet high and weighs about 66 pounds.

The president is expected to step into the dohy -- the ring where this clash of giants takes place -- where he will present his trophy to Sunday's winner. Trump will attend the match following a day of golf with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Dow Jones report added.

Trump isn't the first Western dignitary to attend a sumo match. The UK's Prince Charles and Princess Diana went to a match in 1986 and foreign ambassadors and ministers frequently attend. Former French President Jacques Chirac, an avid fan who had a dog named Sumo, presented a trophy to the sumo champion in 2000. He continued the tradition every year until he left office in 2007.

Some exceptions are being made for Trump: he won't be expected to watch the match sitting cross-legged on a traditional floor cushion, or zabuton. Instead, he will be offered a chair and will watch with Abe from inside a protective VIP box, according to the White House official.

Sumo's origins go back at least 1,500 years, making it one of the world's oldest organized sports. The word sumo translates as "striking one another."

The national sport, known for its ancient rituals and discipline among its plump practitioners, has also seen a series of scandals in recent years, including gambling -- which is illegal in Japan. In a high-profile case in 2010, a hairdresser who specialized in sumo wrestlers' samurai-style topknots was the alleged middleman in a gambling operation that rocked the sport.

Trump has a long history with professional wrestling in the US. In 1988, he struck a deal with the then-World Wrestling Federation to host WrestleMania IV at the Trump Plaza hotel in Atlantic City, NJ. Almost two decades later, he became part of the spectacle at another WrestleMania event: Trump tackled wrestling executive Vince McMahon and "punched" him several times. A few bulky wrestlers then restrained McMahon in a barber's chair in the ring and helped Trump shave McMahon's head.

McMahon's wife and business partner, Linda McMahon, served in Trump's cabinet as administrator of the Small Business Administration until March, when she stepped down.

While sports fans are sure to be on the edge of their cushions for Sunday's final sumo match of the season, the only spectacle Trump is expected to bring with him is the additional security. The area surrounding the Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium has been sealed off to non-ticket holders and additional security measures have been implemented.

By Vivian Salama

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