Trump, Abe friendship remains on par

00:48 - Source: CNN
Trump shakes Japanese PM's hand for 19 seconds

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Trump is embarking on a 13-day, five-country tour

His first foreign stop is in Tokyo

Tokyo CNN —  

They’ve chatted on the phone around 16 times, schmoozed atop white silk couches in a Trump Tower duplex and huddled during an open-air security confab on the patio of Mar-a-Lago.

This weekend, President Donald Trump and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, bring their bromance to Japan, the first stop on Trump’s maiden swing through Asia that comes as anxiety over North Korea reaches fever pitch.

Their first appointment: a round of golf outside Tokyo, arranged by Abe to ease Trump gently into his diplomatic marathon. The men will join Hideki Matsuyama, a rising star on the professional circuit, on an exclusive private course near this busting capital city.

That Abe is treating Trump to a round of golf shortly after his arrival in Asia is not an accident: the relationship between the two men has emerged as the strongest bilateral friendship of Trump’s nine-month-old presidency. An avid golfer who plays most weekends in the United States, Trump will begin his 13-day slog through Asia with at least some semblance of familiarity.

The welcome party is set to continue into the evening when Abe and Trump dine out with their wives – not at one of Tokyo’s renowned sushi palaces, but at a steakhouse where Trump can savor his preferred well-done cut of beef, maybe with a side of ketchup.

As tensions escalate over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Trump hasn’t found as willing a counterpart as Abe, with whom he confers after nearly ever provocation from Pyongyang. And Abe hasn’t been shy in developing Trump as a global partner, making early contact with a leader known for his unpredictability. He was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after he was elected a year ago.

The bonhomie was on display earlier this autumn when the two men met for talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“It’s wonderful to have Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – doing a wonderful job, doing a great job for the people of Japan,” Trump said. “The relationship has never been closer, I believe, with Japan and the United States, and it will continue onward that way.”

Ahead of the same meeting, Abe made reference to Trump as “Donald” twice – a notable level of informality for a protocol-bound Asian leader.