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

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.


Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

Updated 30 min 29 sec ago

Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

  • Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown
  • China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage

HONG KONG: Thirteen prominent Hong Kong democracy activists appeared in court on Monday charged with holding an unauthorized gathering to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the latest in a string of prosecutions against protest leaders in the restless financial hub.
Last month tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown against students pushing for democracy.
The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds. It has taken on particular significance in recent years as the semi-autonomous city chafes under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
This year’s vigil was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures. At the time local transmission had largely been halted.
But thousands turned out to hold candles in their neighborhoods and in Victoria Park, the traditional site of the vigil.
Police later arrested 13 leading activists who appeared at the Victoria Park vigil.
All appeared in court on Monday to be formally charged with “inciting” an unlawful assembly, which carries up to five years in jail.
Among them are Jimmy Lai, the millionaire owner of the openly pro-democracy Apple newspaper, veteran democracy activists such as Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho as well as young campaigner Figo Chan.
When asked if he understood the charge, Lee invoked the hundreds who were killed by Chinese tanks and soldiers at Tiananmen.
“This is political persecution,” he said. “The real incitement is the massacre conducted by the Chinese Communist Party 31 years ago.”
Some of those charged on Monday — and many other leading democracy figures — face separate prosecutions related to last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage and portrayed the protests as a plot by foreigners to destabilize the motherland.
Earlier this month Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at stamping out the protests once and for all.
The law targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, with sentences including life in prison.
But its broad phrasing — such as a ban on encouraging hatred toward China’s government — has sent fear rippling through a city used to being able to speak its mind.
Police have arrested people for possessing pro-independence or autonomy material, libraries and schools have pulled books, political parties have disbanded and one prominent opposition politician has fled.
The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its contents were kept secret until the moment it was enacted.
It empowered China’s security apparatus to set up shop openly in Hong Kong for the first time, while Beijing has also claimed jurisdiction for some serious national security cases — ending the legal firewall between the mainland the city’s independent judiciary.
China has also announced global jurisdiction to pursue national security crimes committed by anyone outside of Hong Kong and China, including foreigners.