Trump arrives for sumo summit with Abe

In this Nov. 6, 2017, file photo, US President Donald Trump reviews an honor guard during a welcome ceremony, escorted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. (AP)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Trump arrives for sumo summit with Abe

  • Japanese and US officials hail as “unprecedented” the relationship between Trump and his “golf buddy,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
  • The official centerpiece is Trump’s meeting on Monday with Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito

TOKYO: US President Donald Trump arrived in Japan Saturday for a four-day trip likely to be dominated by warm words and friendly images, but relatively light on substantive progress over trade.
Air Force One touched down in Japan just before 5pm local time (0800 GMT) on a sunny Tokyo afternoon.
Japanese and US officials hail as “unprecedented” the relationship between Trump and his “golf buddy,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the pair will again find time for a round to cement their diplomatic bromance.
The official centerpiece is Trump’s meeting on Monday with Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito, who only ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne at the beginning of the month following his father’s historic abdication for health reasons.
“With all the countries of the world, I’m the guest of honor at the biggest event that they’ve had in over 200 years,” said Trump before his departure.
But the visual highlight is more likely to be Trump’s visit on Sunday to the final day of the summer “basho” or sumo tournament where he is expected to present the cup to the winner.
Trump’s appearance at the hallowed sumo hall has presented a logistical, security and protocol nightmare, ranging from where he sits to how he should be protected if the crowd start throwing pillows — as tradition dictates when a Grand Champion (yokozuna) falls.
The leaders will play golf before going to the sumo and then repair with their wives to a restaurant in Tokyo’s Roppongi entertainment district, where the menu features skewers of prime sirloin beef at 5,184 yen ($47) for two.
Abe has just recently returned from Washington and Trump himself will be returning to Japan in just over a month for the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in the western city of Osaka.
“Three visits in both directions in a short amount of time is really emblematic of just how close the relationship is,” said a senior Trump administration official, who asked not to be identified.
A Japanese diplomat said the frequency of contact “demonstrates the unprecedented level of close personal relations between the Japanese and US leaders.”

The formal diplomatic part of the trip is limited to a short bilateral meeting and a working lunch on Monday, after which the two leaders will brief the media.
They are also poised to meet families of people abducted by North Korea during the Cold War era to train Pyongyang’s spies, an emotive issue in Japan that Abe has pressed Trump to raise in talks with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump will also address troops at a US base in Japan, highlighting the military alliance between the two allies at a time when tensions are running higher with North Korea after the failure of the Hanoi summit in February.
Hours before Trump landed, hawkish National Security Advisory John Bolton told local media there was “no doubt” Pyongyang’s recent missile tests had violated UN Security Council resolutions but insisted Washington is still ready to resume talks.
But analysts expect little progress on the main issue that divides Japan and the US: trade.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to hold talks with his Japanese counterpart on the sidelines of the visit but with Abe facing upper house elections in the coming months and Trump battling China, both are likely to avoid concessions.
Some observers suspect Abe is rolling out the red carpet to present Japan as the most favorable of the countries currently engaged in trade disputes with Washington.
“Japan’s strategy is to proceed with negotiations in a cool-headed manner,” in contrast to the aggressive tit-for-tat tariff retaliations between the US and China, Shujiro Urata, a trade expert and professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University, told AFP.
However, the trip is more likely to be about smiles and reaffirmations of a close alliance — something Trump will doubtless welcome amid pre-2020 election turmoil at home and a bellicose Iran and China abroad.
“It’s a smart move that shows he knows something about foreign policy and that he actually has a friend,” said Robert Guttman, who lectures on foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University.


Belgium seeks Uighur family in Xinjiang after disappearance

Updated 33 min 45 sec ago
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Belgium seeks Uighur family in Xinjiang after disappearance

  • The disappearance of the woman and her four children has alarmed her husband, as an estimated one million ethnic Uighurs are believed to be held in internment camps in Xinjiang
  • Abdulhamid Tursun, a political refugee in Belgium, said he has not heard from his family since May 31, a few days after they left the embassy under murky circumstances

BEIJING: A Belgian diplomat was expected to travel to China’s restive Xinjiang region on Tuesday to confirm the whereabouts of a Uighur family that was escorted from Belgium’s embassy in Beijing by police last month.
The disappearance of the woman and her four children has alarmed her husband, as an estimated one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in internment camps in Xinjiang.
Abdulhamid Tursun, a political refugee in Belgium, said he has not heard from his family since May 31, a few days after they left the embassy under murky circumstances.
“I am worried about their safety,” he told AFP. “I hope they can safely come be at my side as soon as possible, and our family can reunite.”
Belgium’s decision to dispatch a diplomat to Xinjiang comes as the embassy faces criticism for allegedly enabling Chinese police to take the family back to Xinjiang — where they could face detention.
“The case exposes the additional risk Uighurs in China face even if they want to seek help from foreign governments,” said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International.
“The Belgian embassy set an extremely bad example of how governments put economic interests above human rights,” he told AFP.
China’s foreign ministry and the Xinjiang government did not immediately respond to AFP requests for comment.
The mother, Horiyat Abula, and her four children traveled to Beijing at the end of May to complete missing paperwork for their family reunification visas.
According to Tursun, his wife and children panicked upon learning it would take “at least three months” for their visas to be approved and refused to leave the embassy.
They were afraid to return to their hotel because police had visited them multiple times since they arrived in Beijing, he explained.
“The police came in the middle of the night, asking why they came to Beijing, when they would return,” he said. “They were very scared, they didn’t sleep all night.”
The embassy offered to accompany Abula and her four children back to their hotel, but they “refused to leave the embassy in a kind of sit-in,” a Belgian ministry spokesman told AFP.
In an interview published Tuesday, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told Le Soir newspaper that the diplomatic police “asked the family to leave the premises” and the situation was explained to the father the next day.
An embassy is not intended to “lodge people” applying for visas, he said.
In the end, Chinese police “escorted them away,” the Belgian ministry spokesman told AFP.
A few days later, Abula and her children were taken away by Xinjiang police, her husband said, and he has not heard from her since.
Reynders told the Belga news agency on Monday that the diplomat would go to the address given by the father to check if “everything is going well” with them.
“My only concern here is that we can reunite the family,” he told Belga.
On Monday the foreign ministry did not have confirmation that they were at home.
The case highlights the barriers Uighurs face in attempting to leave China.
According to human rights groups, authorities in Xinjiang have confiscated passports of Uighurs, making it difficult for them to join their relatives overseas.
Abula and her children too have struggled to obtain passports — an issue that Belgium’s ambassador will take up with China’s director of consular affairs, Reynders told Belga.
Abula applied for a passport in 2017, but never received one, according to receipts seen by AFP.
Tursun believes that the family “took a risk” by traveling outside Xinjiang in the first place.
“If my family then returns to (Xinjiang’s capital) Urumqi, it’s very likely that they will be sent to a concentration camp,” he wrote in March in an email to a non-profit helping the family with their visa application.