Amid trade tensions, Trump and Abe prepare to tee off

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TOKYO (AP) – Golf never seems to be far behind whenever President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe get together.

Trump was headed to Mobara Country Club, south of Tokyo, on Sunday morning for a round with the Japanese leader – the fifth time they’ll play together.

It’s part of a continuing charm offense by Abe to stay on Trump’s good side amid trade tensions between the two countries and the continued threat of North Korea.

Later Sunday, Abe will introduce Trump to the ancient sport of sumo wrestling by taking Trump to sit ringside at a championship match. Trump will also be presenting his own “President’s Cup” trophy to the winner.

Before departing, however, Trump appeared to downplay expectations that he and Abe make significant headway on trade talks during the trip. Trump has been seeking a bilateral agreement with Tokyo since pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement two years ago, though analysists on both sides expect that to take a while.

Fox News White House Correspondent John Roberts tweeted that Trump called him Sunday morning in Tokyo and said that, while he and Abe will be discussing trade during their meetings Sunday and Monday, Trump intends to wait until after Japan’s July elections to push for a deal.

Trump had told business leaders after arriving in Tokyo Saturday evening that the U.S. and Japan were “hard at work” negotiating a new bilateral trade agreement that he said would benefit both countries.

“With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove barriers to United States exports, and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship. And we’re getting closer,” he said.

The Trump administration has been threatening Japan with new tariffs on auto imports on U.S. national security grounds, and Trump has suggested he will go ahead with the tariffs if U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer doesn’t manage to wrest concessions from Japan and the European Union. In April Japan’s trade surplus surged almost 18% to 723 billion yen ($6.6 billion).

Trump also downplayed a series of recent North Korean short-range missile tests, tweeting that they’re not a concern for him – even though they are for Japan.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” he wrote in a message that appeared to contradict national security adviser John Bolton, who told reporters Saturday the tests were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Trump said he “has confidence” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will keep his promise to me.

The president also embraced Kim’s attack on a Democratic presidential rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, misspelling Biden’s name while tweeting that he “smiled when he called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”

North Korea labeled Biden a “fool of low IQ” and an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being” after Biden called Kim a tyrant during a recent speech.

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President Donald Trump walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Chiba, Japan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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