Former US president Donald Trump has won the first few of the Republican Party’s US presidential primaries, and it looks like he could keep winning. Obviously, Trump is making a comeback and it would be difficult to stop him. Many governments have started to get ready for his return.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is to visit the US in April. Tokyo has been in contact with Trump’s team through the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) network. LDP Vice President Taro Aso visited Washington last month, paving the way for Kishida’s upcoming trip. Aso met with former US ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who served during the Trump administration. The two sides have continued to communicate since then.
Aso served as Japanese deputy prime minister from 2012 to 2021 under former Japanese prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga. When Abe met with Trump, Aso was by their side many times. The only other Japanese politician than Abe that Trump could recall is Aso, Asahi Shimbun said.
Abe and Trump held official bilateral meetings 14 times, in addition to 37 conference calls. They also played five rounds of golf while discussing political issues and foreign affairs. Abe’s relationship with Trump was a diplomatic legacy that he left behind. His work would allow Kishida to cope with Trump’s possible return in a much easier way.
On Nov. 17, 2016, less than 10 days after Trump was elected as the US president, Abe managed to meet with Trump when he was on his way to attend an APEC summit in Peru. Abe brought a gold golf driver as a gift for Trump and became the first foreign leader to meet with Trump. Abe clearly knew that Trump followed a one-person decisionmaking model, and hence strove to consolidate his personal relationship with Trump.
In May 2019, Trump visited Japan for the second time during his presidency. He became the first foreign leader to be received in Japan’s Reiwa — “beautiful harmony” — era. As soon as Trump arrived, Abe drove a cart and took Trump to a golf course. They played golf together, with Japanese legendary golf player Aoki Isao accompanying them. The climax of Trump’s visit came at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, a sumo wrestling arena in Tokyo, where he and his wife watched the match from a sofa placed at ringside. As the sumo ring was called, Trump presented a specially made, 30kg US President’s Cup to the winner. Abe and Trump’s intimate relationship allowed Japan and the US to negotiate with one another in a congenial way.
After stepping down, Abe revealed that in his first meeting with then-US president-elect Trump, he persuaded Trump to keep the deployment of US troops in Asia and take part in the Indo-Pacific strategy. Abe’s objective was to intensify the security alliance between Washington and Tokyo, along with which he proclaimed that “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance.”
Similar to Japan’s move, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently appointed two ministers to observe the US presidential election. They have been vigorously discussing strategies to cope with Trump’s potential comeback. Canada and Japan are two of the US’ most steadfast allies, and they dare not to loosen up. Instead, they have been considering the issue very seriously. Taiwan should certainly follow suit. President-elect William Lai (賴清德) and vice president-elect Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) should keep up with the situation.
Chen Yung-chang is a company manager.
Translated by Emma Liu
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