Trump to get respite from Washington woes in Japan

President Trump arrives in Japan this weekend for a visit heavy on ceremony and light on pressure to get things done, offering him a respite from a series of difficult developments in Washington, D.C. 

The president will spend Memorial Day weekend as the first state guest of Japan since the enthronement of its new emperor. Trump will golf with his good friend, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, attend a sumo wrestling match and be a guest at a banquet with the imperial family. 

{mosads}The largely festive nature of the trip could provide relief for the president, who has been fuming in recent days amid standoffs with Democrats on investigations and matters of domestic policy.

“With all the countries of the world, I am the guest of honor at the biggest event that they’ve had in over 200 years. So it’s a great thing,” Trump said Thursday of his trip to Tokyo.

The president has been mired in a fight with Democrats as they investigate his administration, his finances and the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. This week saw a string of decisions go against the president, as two judges separately ruled against his efforts to thwart Democratic subpoenas, and the New York state legislature advanced legislation that would allow Congress to obtain his state tax returns.

To cap off the week, Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have engaged in an escalating war of words. After Pelosi said the president was “engaged in a cover-up,” Trump walked out of a planned meeting with Democratic leaders to discuss infrastructure.

When Pelosi portrayed him as petulant and in need of an “intervention,” Trump suggested the Speaker had “lost it.”

Trump has insisted he was calm during the meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), but on Twitter he has been consumed with investigations and the specter of impeachment.

The Japan trip is an opportunity for Trump to revel in a different kind of atmosphere than Washington’s partisan wars.

“I am the guest, meaning the United States is the guest,” Trump said Thursday. “But Prime Minister Abe said to me very specifically, ‘you are the guest of honor. There’s only one guest of honor. You are the guest of honor.’ ”

Trade and North Korea are expected to be on the agenda during a bilateral meeting. The U.S. recently put off a decision on taxing cars imported from Japan amid ongoing negotiations, and Abe has been a key ally in seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

A senior administration official promised there will be “some very interesting announcements” at a joint press conference, but suggested substantive policy discussion will take a back seat during the weekend.

“It’s really to be state guests of their majesties. And that’s really the heart of the visit,” the official said. “It’s a celebration of their new roles and this new era that’s been kicked off … and a chance to celebrate the alliance.”

The president will be the first foreign leader to make a state visit to Japan since the enthronement of the new emperor, Naruhito. His father became the first monarch to abdicate the throne in more than 200 years, with a ceremony taking place at the beginning of the month.

“This is the first state visit offered by the Japanese government after the enthronement of the new emperor. So symbolically this is very significant,” said Takehiro Shimada, minister of public affairs for the Japanese Embassy.

Trump has developed a particularly close bond with Abe. The two have spoken in person or over the phone more than 40 times since Trump took office. This weekend’s trip will mark the second of three meetings between the two leaders in a two-month span.

The president is set to arrive in Tokyo on Saturday evening local time. On Sunday morning, he and Abe will play golf and will be joined by Japanese professional golfer Isao Aoki.

The two leaders will attend a sumo tournament on Sunday afternoon, where Trump will take part in a signature part of Japanese culture. Accommodations are expected to be made for Trump and Abe to sit ringside to take in a championship match, and the president is said to have offered a branded trophy to award the winner.

“Sumo is something very attached to the Japanese people’s sentiment,” Shimada said, calling it an important gesture for foreign leaders to attend a match.

“Through that experience we would expect the president to deepen his understanding of Japanese culture, as well as the Japanese people will feel closer to the president,” he added.

Trump and Abe will have dinner on Sunday night before the president meets with the emperor and empress on Monday. Following a joint press conference with Abe, Trump will attend a state banquet Monday evening.

The president has typically embraced the role of honored guest, basking in special accommodations and events. He often speaks warmly of his relationship with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and China, two countries he visited during the first year of his presidency.

The coming days will present multiple additional opportunities for Trump to receive the red carpet treatment from foreign leaders.

A week after Trump gets back from his trip to Tokyo, he will jet off to the United Kingdom for another state visit where he will have an audience with the queen and the prime minister. 

The trip across the pond will be a family affair: All of the president’s adult children and their spouses will join him in the United Kingdom, and the family is expected to attend a banquet dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Tags Charles Schumer China Donald Trump Impeachment Japan Nancy Pelosi North Korea Robert Mueller South Korea
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