The US president’s recent visit to Japan was rather interesting, not only because of the Trump’s behavior but because of Abe’s hospitality;
the leaders together fed some koi and played golf. Abe also gifted Trump with a white hat that had the message “Donald & Shinzo, Make Alliance
Even Greater” written in golden letters. Pikotaro, the performer of”Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen”, was also invited to perform for the US president.
These activities have created such a jovial milieu for the bilateral relations.
It can be suggested that Abe does not think very highly of Trump. Abe understands how he could communicate with Trump effectively which is not through long winded official statements but through publicity acts of hat signing, playing golf, and feeding fish. Aren’t these activities juvenile? In my opinion, Abe’s attempt to cater to Trump’s preferences was done in the interest of Japan’s bilateral relationship with the US rather than any favorable view of Abe towards Trump. Abe is an experienced leader that have had to deal with many national and international crises which he has dealt with great competency, it is difficult to imagine that he would view Trump favorably considering his unhinged remarks on international politics. It seems that Abe is trying to make the most out of the Trump presidency and improve bilateral relation by pleasing the US president. All that Abe can do is to maintain good personal relations with Trump in the hope that Trump would not act abruptly against the interest of Japan, especially in the time of high-tension with North Korea.
In recent years, Abe has attempted to improve Japan’s national security by suggesting constitutional amendment to validate and potentially expand the Self Defense Forces (SDF) in a full fledged military. This demonstrates Abe’s concern about Japan’s security with growing threat from North Korea and China. A stronger Japan could mean less burden for the US provision of military force and Trump’s America first policy would benefit from burden-sharing..
On the other hand, it has been suggested President Trump’s treatment of PM Abe as deferential. Actually we have seen Trump’s attempts to exert his dominance in many other occasions with his long and awkward handshakes. In this case, although Trump may feel that he is exerting his dominance effectively, \ Abe’s method of accommodating to Trump’s preferences is a way to pursue Japan’s interests.
In a time of such unpredictability, it appears that Abe would attempt to minimize risks and maintain security by improving its relations with the US.