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Japan’s Abe under pressure at home for ‘shameless pandering’ to Trump while trying to keep him from doing ‘bad stuff’

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On Thursday, a report in The Washington Post explained that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing pressure at home for trying to sooth President Donald Trump’s ego.

Abe is scheduled to travel to the White House for a two-day summit on Friday. Abe has spoken with Trump on multiple occasions, however, aides said that a “turning point” in their relationship is not expected.

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“Beyond the pleasantries lies a more difficult reality for Abe and a test of his resilience at a time when Trump is demanding that Japan engage in negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement that Tokyo has long resisted and is ratcheting up threats to impose tariffs on Japanese automobiles,” the report said.

The report explained that there is growing criticism on Abe’s relationship with Trump.

“There’s a certain amount of domestic dismay and criticism of Abe for what is perceived in many quarters in Japan as shameless pandering to Donald Trump,” Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific in the Obama administration said. “I’ve certainly heard that from [legislative] Diet members in Abe’s own party. But my suspicion is that Abe feels justified based on the principle of, ‘whatever it takes’ — that Japan does not have the luxury of being cast adrift in this uncongenial geopolitical climate.”

Adding that Abe feels like need to help the White House stay strong on sanctions

“Abe will attempt to reinforce the position of Trump administration hard-liners, such as national security adviser John Bolton, that the president should hold firm on sanctions until Pyongyang fully commits to denuclearize, Japanese officials said,” the report said.

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Michael Green, former Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council in the George W. Bush Administration, said that Abe has tried to counsel Trump on multiple occasions.

“Abe has talked to Trump about North Korea before every summit and the Japanese side says they have the same discussion every time,” Green said.

Adding, “Trump’s view is that he knows how to negotiate and doesn’t need Abe’s advice. I’m told Trump told Abe that ‘it’s bad to prepare too much because on big deals you have to go with your gut,’” Green added. “But Abe’s goal ‘is at least stopping the bad stuff.'”

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“Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party faces challenging upper house elections in Japan’s parliament this summer, is eager to avoid a blowup with Trump. Yet he appears to have little leverage to force concessions from the United States on trade that could help him win ratification in Tokyo for any potential deal,” the report explained.

Read the full report here.

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