Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: Trump fetes sumo champ in Japan before grappling with trade | US news


Michael_Novakhov
shared this story
from The Guardian.

On one side of the sumo ring stood a tall, hefty man with an unconventional hairstyle, bowing and smiling as the crowd applauded; opposite Donald Trump stood a professional wrestler, who on Sunday became the first recipient of a winner’s trophy awarded by the US president during his state visit to Japan.

Trump had been spared the agony of watching the last five bouts of the 15-day tournament in the customary manner – seated cross-legged on a thin cushion. Instead, sumo authorities broke with tradition and provided near-ringside armchairs for the president and the first lady, Melania, and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, and his wife, Akie.

The presentation of the “President’s Cup” before a sellout crowd at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan stadium – the ancient sport’s spiritual home in Tokyo – is one of several gestures Abe hopes will put Trump in a conciliatory mood before they hold potentially difficult talks on trade and North Korea on Monday.

Trump, a fan and former promoter of the less tradition-bound WWE wrestling, entered the arena, stepped on to the dohyo ring and bowed at Asanoyama, a relatively unknown Japanese wrestler celebrating his first tournament victory. Trump congratulated him for his “outstanding achievement”. The wrestler later said he was “overjoyed” to have received Trump’s eagle-topped trophy, standing 54 inches tall and weighing about 70lbs.

The sumo crowd of 11,500 had been instructed to applaud the VIPs’ arrival and warned not to hurl their seat cushions into the ring – a traditional show of appreciation for a particularly exciting bout or when a high-ranking wrestler suffers a shock defeat.

Some in the crowd shook hands with Abe and Trump as they left to join their wives at a robatayaki restaurant for a casual dinner of meat, fish and vegetables cooked over charcoal. Kyodo news agency noted the president’s love of beef but added that, were he to be more adventurous, the restaurant’s menu included such Japanese delicacies as “salmon roe with grated radish and marinated sea cucumber guts”.

Abe and Trump began the first day of a largely policy-free four days with a round of golf just outside Tokyo, close to the epicentre of a strong earthquake that shook the capital about an hour before Trump’s arrival on Saturday afternoon.

The leaders, playing their fifth round of golf since Trump became president, practised their swings in front of photographers before teeing off. Abe later posted a selfie with Trump from the course, where they were joined by the veteran Japanese professional Isao Aoki.

No scorecard information was provided, and it is not clear if Trump has ever used the $3,755 gold-plated club Abe gave him when he visited the then president-elect in New York in late 2016.

Abe’s attempts to win over the mercurial president have continued – he reportedly nominated Trump for the Nobel peace prize for his work to open up a dialogue with North Korea – and on Sunday included a post-golf lunch of double cheeseburgers made with US beef. On Monday, Trump will become the first world leader to greet Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, and his wife, empress Masako.

Japan is desperate to avoid a repeat of the trade friction between China and the US, and the damage to its economy that would result if Trump makes good on a threat to impose tariffs on Japanese cars and auto parts

While Trump will reportedly not push for a bilateral trade deal until after Japanese upper house elections in July, he attacked what he regards as the US’s unfair trade imbalance with Japan, promising it would become “a little bit more fair” after a deal is concluded.

“With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove barriers to United States exports, and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship,” he told business leaders after arriving in Tokyo on Saturday evening. “And we’re getting closer.”

The leaders will also discuss North Korea’s nuclear programme, a day after Trump appeared to contradict his national security adviser, John Bolton, over the gravity of Pyongyang’s recent missile tests.

On Saturday, Bolton had called the launches a violation of UN security council resolutions, but on Sunday Trump tweeted: “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me.” He added that he had “confidence” that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, “will keep his promise to me” over denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

Japan, though, which is within range of North Korean short-range missiles, is keen to maintain pressure on Kim, although the prospects for a third US-North Korea summit look dim after the failure of talks in Hanoi in February.

Abe recently shifted his stance on engagement with North Korea, saying he would be willing to meet Kim without preconditions, having previously refused to talk unless significant progress was made on resolving the cold war abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.

On Monday, Trump will meet he families of some of the victims, who were taken to North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to teach their language and customs to the regime’s spies.

Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠