How they see us: Japan’s mixed emotions on Trump
Well, that was cozy, said Koya Jibiki in the Nikkei Asian Review. President Trump showed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an “unprecedented level of hospitality” during his visit to the U.S. last week. Trump “held, shook, pulled, and patted Abe’s hand for 19 seconds” at a White House meeting, a bizarre ritual that the U.S. press dubbed “super-awkward.” And the effusions just kept coming. Trump offered Abe a seat on Air Force One, a “highly unusual” honor for a foreign head of state, and jetted him off to the president’s personal resort, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. The two dined and played golf and even bonded over a security crisis when news came at dinner that North Korea had tested a ballistic missile. “It was like a honeymoon.” Japan “got almost everything it wanted,” at least on security issues, said Mikio Sugeno, also in the Review. Trump recognized the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China claims as its own, to be Japanese territory, and he thanked Abe for hosting U.S. forces in Japan.
Abe should be careful, said the Mainichi Shimbun in an editorial. Japan built its security around the U.S. alliance because America was the international leader in defending global “values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law.” The Trump administration, however, “does not necessarily attach weight to such conventional values.” Trump has already pulled the U.S. out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and now plans to negotiate bilateral deals. Why? Because he thinks it will be easier for the U.S. to wield its “overwhelming economic power” during two-way talks and batter the other country into making valuable concessions. Trump’s America is not out to lead the free world, but to grab all it can for itself.
What is most “worrisome” is that Trump doesn’t understand that free trade benefits all countries, said The Japan Times. Trump’s campaigntrail rants against Japan—that it manipulates its currency and charges high tariffs on U.S. products—were simply wrong. He seems to have formed his opinion about Japan’s economy in the 1980s and hasn’t updated it since. During the visit, Abe patiently got Trump up to speed, explaining how in 2015 Japanese automakers created some 1.5 million jobs in the U.S. by producing millions of vehicles in American factories. But “it’s not clear whether Abe succeeded in correcting the U.S. president’s distorted views on trade issues.”
Nor, frankly, is it clear whether Trump can be trusted, said the Asahi Shimbun. Abe, preoccupied with China and its “highhanded maritime advances” in the South China Sea, where it has been militarizing its man-made islands, focused on getting Trump’s pledge to defend the Senkaku Islands. Yet Trump “also has the option up his sleeve of making a deal with China” at Japan’s expense. Japan may do better to start “deepening multilateral and multilayered ties” with other partners. After all, Trump’s honeymoons don’t tend to result in lasting marriages.