Trump Shafts Abe On Trade And North Korea

Trump Shafts Abe On Trade And North Korea

The Washington Post (on Monday on p. A11) has a revealing story about how President Trump has essentially shafted an important world leader who may have tried harder than any other to please and appease Trump from the moment he became president, with the story ironically reporting that supposedly Trump views the friendly feeling as mutual and has said much more respectful things about this leader than almost any other, with perhaps Vladimir Putin being the prime exception.  This world leader is Japanese prime minister, who rushed to the US to be the first world leader to meet Trump after his inauguration and who has spoken on the phone with him more than any other, as well as playing lots of golf with him and even giving him a gold-plated golf club worth $3800.

But it seems to have been largely for naught, with Trump basically giving Abe next to nothing he has asked for and actually engaging in policies on trade that seriously damage the Japanese economy and certainly Abe politically in Japan, with his refusal to make an exception for Japan on the steel and aluminum tariffs, even as Abe held back from retaliating against US exports as pretty much all of the rest of the US’s major trading partners did when they were it with them.  And Trump is threatening to impose tariffs on Japanese cars and demanding that Japan unilaterally open up more to US agricultural goods while offering zero in return to Japan.  This reportedly came to a head in late June when Trump apparently went on and on about Pearl Harbor and made numerous simply false statements about Japanese policy and its economy, all of this on top of the US withdrawing from the TPP, which has been especially important to Japan, with Japan leading the remaining ten nations to follow through on it despite the departure of the US under Trump.  The Japanese have pulled back and all but given up on Trump being remotely reasonable on these issues, with Abe very frustrated that Trump is acting as he has been dong.

It is not just on trade that Trump has been sticking it to Abe and the Japanese.  He has ignored Abe’s advice on North Korea, where Abe advised him not to stop military exercises until North Korea made serious moves to denuclearize.  An issue of special concern for the Japanese is the matter of the return of Japanese abductees from North Korea. Trump supposedly promised to raise this issue with Kim Jong-un, but did not do so, too busy getting dead Americans back rather than living Japanese.  A new report appearing for the first time in this article is that the frustration of the Japanese led them to have a previously secret meeting in July in Vietnam with the North Koreans about this issue, having given up on Trump.  The US is now apparently furious and declaring that Abe needs Trump more than Trump needs Abe, but just as Trudeau in Canada has reacted similarly to such bullying by Trump, we are seeing the Japanese declaring a refusal to bend on matters of their national interest to Trump’s demands, even while trying to maintain Abe’s position as one of Trump’s best friends among foreign leaders.  Shinzo Abe has now joined a large club of foreign leaders frustrated with Trump.  With a few exceptions (Turkey’s Erdogan is one), they have my sympathy.

Barkley Rosser

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