Under an unseasonably hot sun, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump hit the links for a round of golf Sunday, as the pair looked to further cement what is perhaps Trump's closest relationship with a foreign leader.
Trump had told business leaders after arriving in Tokyo on Saturday evening that the US and Japan were "hard at work" negotiating a new bilateral trade agreement that he said would benefit both countries.
On Monday, Trump will become the first head of state to meet Japan's new emperor, Naruhito, since he ascended to the throne on May 1.
President Donald Trump referred to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as his "golf buddy".
"I would say that Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years, but that's OK", Trump said Saturday night during a reception in Tokyo with Japanese business leaders. The avid golfers have played together many times during past visits and have scheduled yet another round - this time at a course in Chiba prefecture with professional golfer Isao Aoki - on Sunday morning.
Abe is trying to placate Trump amid growing U.S. -Japan trade tensions and the threat of auto tariffs.
In the Japanese capital, ringside seats at a sumo wrestling tournament, an imperial dinner banquet and a visit to a naval base are being arranged by Abe, who has spent more than two years making a crack at becoming Trump's best global friend.
The president is in Japan on a four-day visit that will include meeting Japan's new emperor and discussing trade issues with the Asian nation's leaders.
Trump had the trophy made for the sumo victor, and Japanese media informally called it the "Trump Cup".More news: Fed's Daly sees inflation moving back up to 2% target
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Also at issue is the lingering threat of North Korea, which has resumed missile testing and recently fired a series of short-range projectiles that USA officials, including Trump, have tried to downplay despite an agreement by North Korea to hold off on further testing.
Trump says "he has confidence" North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "will keep his promise to me". Mr Abe said in the post he hoped to make the Japan-US alliance "even more unshakeable".
Abe told reporters as he left for the country club that Sunday's weather was great for golf and "it seems we are in a good mood for sumo". He tweeted a selfie photo of him and Trump smiling widely on the greens.
While the effect will be one of royal feting of a leader who loves that sort of spectacle, it was never a question whether a USA leader would be invited for the first official state visit of the Reiwa era, as Emperor Naruhito's reign is known. Trump has suggested he will impose tariffs if the USA can't wrest concessions from Japan and the European Union.
In his tweet earlier, Trump also took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner in the race to challenge him in his 2020 re-election bid, appearing to enjoy a commentary in the North's state-run media last week that blasted Biden for allegedly insulting Kim.
He says the USA and Japan "are hard at work" negotiating a bilateral trade agreement, but is pointing to the gap.
Fox News Channel's White House Correspondent John Roberts tweeted that Trump telephoned him Sunday morning in Tokyo and told Roberts that he meant to wait until after Japan's parliamentary elections in July to push for a deal.
He has suggested he will go ahead with the trade penalties if US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer fails to win concessions from Japan and the European Union.
"With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, removing barriers to United States exports and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship", Trump said. In April, Japan's trade surplus with the USA surged 17.7 percent to ¥723 billion.