Golf and sumo wrestling: Trump arrives in Japan for four-day state visit

26 May 2019, 04:40 | Updated: 26 May 2019, 05:16

Donald Trump has enjoyed a round of golf with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he begins a four-day state visit to the country.

Later on Sunday the US president will be introduced to the nation's ancient sport of sumo wrestling.

Mr Trump will sit ringside at a championship match in Tokyo featuring the oversized athletes, and will also present the winner with his a "president's cup" trophy.

The US leader flew south from the Japanese capital to tee-off with Mr Abe at the Mobara Country Club in Chiba this morning.

The Japanese leader is Mr Trump's closest friend among world leaders, and the pair have played golf together five times since the US president took office.

Mr Abe is seeking to maintain a strong relationship with Mr Trump amid US-Japan trade tensions and the North Korea threat to both nations.

A motorcade of golf carts had ferried Mr Abe to meet Mr Trump on the course, before they exchanged a warm handshake and patted each other on the forearms and posed for a throng of journalists.

The Japanese leader wore white trousers and a dark blue sport coat, while his US counterpart wore a red half-zip pullover with a white shirt and dark trousers.

Mr Trump tweeted that he was "going to play golf right now with @AbeShinzo. Japan loves the game. Tremendous fans of @JackNicklaus, @TigerWoods, and @PhilMickelson."

All three are famous American golfers.

The president said he asked about South African professional golf Gary Player and "they said we love Gary too!"

Mr Abe told reporters as he left for the country club that Sunday's weather was great for golf and "it seems we are in a good mood for sumo".

Neither leader spoke at the club before they climbed into a golf cart with Mr Abe at the wheel.

Mr Trump ignored a shouted question from a US reporter about whether he believed North Korea had violated UN Security Council resolutions.

He had earlier downplayed North Korea's recent series of short-range missile tests.

Mr Trump tweeted that the tests weren't a concern for him - even though they are for Japan.

He wrote: "North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me."

The message appeared to contradict US national security adviser John Bolton, who told reporters the tests violated UN Security Council resolutions on Saturday.

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

The president also sought to manage expectations that he and Mr Abe will make significant headway on trade issues when they hold formal talks on Monday.

Mr Trump has been seeking a bilateral trade agreement with Tokyo since he pulled the US out of the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement two years ago, though analysts expect no breakthroughs during the state visit.

Fox News channel's White House correspondent John Roberts tweeted that Mr Trump telephoned him Sunday morning in Tokyo and told him that he intended to wait until after Japan's parliamentary elections in July to push for a deal.

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

He said: "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."

The Trump administration has been threatening Japan with new tariffs on imports of cars and car parts on national security grounds.

Mr Trump has suggested he will impose tariffs if the US can't wrest concessions from Japan and the European Union.

Japan's trade surplus surged almost 18% to 723 billion yen ($6.6 billion) in April.

Mr Trump also embraced Mr Kim's verbal attack on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The president misspelled Mr Biden's name in a tweet in which he said he "smiled" when Kim "called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that's sending me a signal?"

After Mr Biden called Mr Kim a tyrant during a recent speech, North Korea labelled Mr Biden a "fool of low IQ" and an "imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being".