TOKYO (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump met new Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Monday (May 27) in the ceremonial highlight of a state visit overshadowed by trade tensions between the two allies.
Mr Trump, a fan of pomp and circumstance, was greeted by the new emperor and his Harvard-educated wife at the imperial palace in Tokyo as part of a formal welcoming ceremony broadcast live on national television.
He became the first foreign dignitary to be received by the monarch since he inherited the throne earlier this month after his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, stepped down in the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in two centuries.
Mr Trump gave a slight bow and he and First Lady Melania Trump shook hands with the imperial pair before entering the palace, to be met by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, among others.
The president and emperor and their wives returned outside to walk a red carpet and stand under a hot sun while a military band played the national anthems of both countries.
Mr Trump then walked the red carpet again, waving at assembled school children and inspecting Japanese troops before standing solemnly on a raised platform as a military band played a formal salute of honour.
Mr Trump has made clear he was pleased to have been given the honour of the first reception with the emperor, who is treating him and first lady Melania Trump to a lavish state dinner later on Monday.
“It’s over 200 years since something like this has happened. So it’s a great honour to be representing the United States,” Mr Trump said at a dinner with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the leaders’ wives on Sunday.
In between visits with the monarch, Mr Trump is slated to hold formal talks with Mr Abe, with whom he played golf, attended a sumo tournament and dined on Sunday.
The two leaders put on a show of friendship meant to demonstrate the strength of the US-Japan alliance, but have policy disagreements over trade and North Korea.
Mr Trump has threatened to target Japanese auto-makers with high tariffs as part of an effort to reduce trade surpluses with other countries that he sees as a sign that the United States has been mistreated.
Tokyo and Washington are working on a bilateral trade agreement, but Mr Trump has said he does not expect major progress on it until July, when Mr Abe’s ruling bloc faces an election for Parliament’s Upper House.
Mr Trump has spearheaded an expensive trade dispute with China.
That trade war between the world’s two largest economies has hurt markets worldwide and confounded US allies, including Japan and the European Union.
Such allies share US concerns about Chinese practices, but object to Mr Trump’s tactics of threatening tariffs on their products rather than seeking cooperation in standing up to Beijing.
In addition to trade, Mr Abe and Mr Trump are expected to discuss North Korea and Iran. Mr Trump said on Sunday he was not worried about a recent missile launch by North Korea.
That put him at odds with his own national security adviser, Mr John Bolton, who said on Saturday Pyongyang’s recent short-range missile tests violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Japan shares Mr Bolton’s view.
Also on Monday, Mr Trump will meet families of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang decades ago to help train spies.
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