The personal chemistry between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is quite good, and that’s especially important given Trump’s unpredictability in what he advocates and how he goes about his advocacy.
That was the view offered Wednesday at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall by a prominent Japanese expert on the United States, Professor Fumiaki Kubo. He is A. Barton Hepburn Professor of American Government and History in the Graduate Schools of Law and Politics at the University of Tokyo. His visit to Marquette University was facilitated by the Japanese consulate in Chicago.
Kubo said Abe visited Trump at Trump Tower in New York City shortly after the American presidential election in November 2016, and then visited Trump again in Washington and in Florida shortly after Trump took office. The two leaders share an interest in golf and that was a plus, he said.
“Golf is an interesting sport,” Kubo said. “It takes a lot of time, plenty of time to talk.” He said Abe tried to persuade Trump of the importance of Japan as an ally and of the seriousness of the threat from North Korea. Kubo said Abe and Trump have had 19 conversations in person or on the phone, a notably large number. “That doesn’t mean Japan has been successful in getting everything it wants from the United States, but it achieved many things,” Kubo said.
That said, Kubo said many Japanese people find Trump inconsistent and unpredictable, and there have been times when there are differences between what the American president is saying and what others in his administration are saying. The US attitude toward negotiating with North Korean leaders is an example of this.
Those factors make the good personal relationship between Trump and Abe more important than in past situations with other leaders, Kubo said.
Overall, Trump is less internationalist and less in favor of trade than his predecessors of both political parties, and that is a concern to Japan, Kubo said. He said trade was one area where Abe has not had much impact in his conversations with Trump.
Kubo talked with Gousha and an audience of about 200 about a range of subjects involving Japan and the US, including control of parts of the South China Sea, the role of China, Japan’s policies on military arms, and the way people in each nation view the other. Kubo said Americans should regard Japan as a reliable ally who shares many values, including support of democracy and international peace and stability.
To view the one-hour program, click here.