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Fairway diplomacy: Abe putting hope in golf with Trump

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 18, 2016 became the first foreign leader to meet the US President-Elect Donald TrumpAFP-File

TOKYO, Japan, Feb 7 – Shinzo Abe heads to the US this week and to a game of golf with Donald Trump teeing off a drive to keep Japan’s most important relationship out of the rough.

After a formal summit in Washington, the Japanese prime minister is expected to board Air Force One with the new US president and jet off to Florida for some time together on the links.

For Abe, a round of golf could be an opportunity to avoid the hazards that other world leaders have encountered in their dealings with the unconventional commander-in-chief.

“So far, Trump has described Japan as if it is an imagined enemy,” said Fumiaki Kubo, an expert on US politics at the University of Tokyo.

The idea of meeting in person “is better than fighting during a phone conversation,” he said, alluding to reports of the heated call between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, which by some accounts ended abruptly.

“You can’t escape a conversation by hanging up the phone inside Air Force One,” Kubo said, noting that spending such a long time with Trump would be a chance for Abe to brief him about the basic facts of the Japan-US relationship.

In the more than seven decades since defeat in World War II, Japan has risen to become a steadfast ally of the United States.

There are 47,000 US service personnel based in Japan, providing protection for their hosts and offering an invaluable forward position in East Asia for the Americans.

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