Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greets US President Donald Trump before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club in Chiba on May 26, 2019. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

President Trump is in Japan to meet the Emperor and Empress, watch sumo and eat sushi. And he will visit the US/Japanese navy base at Yokosuka on Tuesday, May 29, to tour Japan’s new helicopter destroyer – the JS Kaga – that is to be converted into an aircraft carrier with a complement of F35B stealth fighters.

Trump’s Japanese hosts might be holding their breaths on Tuesday, should the President ask a few awkward questions:

1) Please show me the radio with which the three JSDF services talk to each other? I never served in the military, but it seems to me a military isn’t much good if the army, navy, and air force can’t talk to each other? I’m sure you have that radio. Can’t believe you don’t.

2) How many aircraft carriers do you have?  Two? What happens when one of them breaks down and needs fixing – and the other one is out training? Doesn’t that leave none for fighting an enemy? Who do you expect to defend you in that case? Us? Don’t you need three? While one is getting overhauled, one is training, and one is available to fight. You’re planning to build another one, aren’t you?

3) After we visit the ship, let’s go see the ACM (Alliance Coordination Mechanism) … you know … the building where Japanese and US personnel are sitting side by side – planning, carrying out exercises and coordinating the bilateral defense relationship activities. There is one isn’t there?

4) Are enough young Japanese joining the JSDF? Certainly, it’s an attractive, well-paid profession that all citizens – and especially government officials and politicians – respect. In America, we spend billions on our brave men and women – and we spend on them when they get out of the service too. They defend us, after all. You Japanese must be doing the same for your brave men and women in the JSDF. Aren’t you? What good are new ships if you treat the people on them like minimum wage dishwashers at Mar-a-Lago?

5) How much do you spend on defense?  A bit more than $50 billion a year? How much were you spending 15 years ago – just before you started cutting defense spending for almost 10 years straight? Fifty billion today doesn’t’ get you much beyond where you were back then. My people tell me China wants your islands – and they mean business. The Koreans (North and South) aren’t too crazy about you either, I hear. My great friend Kim told me that too.

‘Welfare Queens’

Tokyo looks like a nice place.  New shiny buildings, a lot of construction, great highways. Great place for a Trump Hotel. Are you sure you don’t have some extra cash lying around?  What’s the word I’m looking for … oh yeah, like Ronald Reagan used to say, “Welfare Queens.” Brooklyn’s full of them too. You wouldn’t be doing just enough to keep us on the hook to protect you, would you?

6)  I hear you’re finally building the Marines an airfield on Okinawa? How long’s it going to take? Thirteen more years? When did you first promise to build it – 1996?  It’s 2019. And it’s going to cost how many billions?  Over $20 billion? It’s not much bigger than that skating rink in Central Park I fixed up for New York City – under budget and earlier than promised. Let me give you the name of my man at the Trump Organization. Maybe he can help.

7)  Couldn’t sleep on the flight over.  So I read your Constitution – Article 9, I think it was. It says you can’t have a military. What’s all this I see at Yokosuka? Sure looks like a military. My people tell me you use Article 9 as an excuse to not do anything you don’t want to do. Kind of reminds me of a Get Out of Jail Free card from the Monopoly game. Great game.

Note to Tokyo: Don’t worry. Mr Trump won’t ask. Indeed, one must admire Prime Minister Abe. He has retained the services of what is still the world’s most powerful military while doing and spending nothing more than he was going to do or spend otherwise. A little flattery sometimes looks like statesmanship. But then one day the person being flattered isn’t around anymore – and the new guy feels like he’s been ‘stiffed’ – as they say in Queens.

As another  long-time observer of all things Japanese and a friend of Japan commented:

“From a broader perspective, I believe that no country in the world has more successfully played to and manipulated Trump’s psyche. Complete interagency coordination of message and policies that are always calculated in terms of Trump’s reaction.

Every bit of Trumpian campaign bluster directed at Japan, from military contributions to trade, has been parried. Abe has owned Trump, like no other world leader has.

So while Trump sees this as a social visit, there’s a darker Japanese political view that it’s more about Abe parading his tamed foe through the streets of Tokyo, showing off his skill and strength prior to a critical election.

A Roman ‘triumphus’ parade for Abe, but here to a sumo stadium instead of Jupiter’s temple.”

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