Japanese polling firms found solid support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Florida this past weekend to spend time with his American counterpart, President Donald Trump, though far-left politicians condemned expanding U.S.-Japan ties.
The newswire service Kyodo published a poll following Abe’s return to Japan finding that 70 percent of Japanese respondents were “satisfied” with Abe’s visit to the White House and Trump’s estate in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. The New York Times adds that the Kyodo poll found approval of Abe’s work as prime minister generally to be 62 percent, a slight uptick from a month earlier.
The Japanese broadcaster NHK found similar results. NHK’s polls found that 68 percent of Japanese respondents either “somewhat” or “highly” approved of Abe’s time in the United States. Only 27 percent said they either “somewhat” or “highly” disapprove of the visit. Fifty-eight percent said they approved of the job that Abe’s cabinet is doing, three percent more than those who said so in January.
Abe arrived from Tokyo on Friday and engaged in a late-morning meeting with President Trump at the White House, followed by a press conference. The two then flew to Florida, where they spent much of the weekend playing golf and getting to know each other. Abe had reportedly suggested the game to Trump, noting that his grandfather, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, once played a round of golf with Dwight Eisenhower. The two first ladies, Melania Trump and Akie Abe, also spent Saturday together, visiting Florida’s Morikami Museum.
Trump and Abe discussed their relationship in two press conferences, as well, with Trump telling reporters, “The United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.”
“President Trump has just made it clear in our leaders’ summit that the United States is with Japan 100 percent at all times, and he is standing next to me right now in order to demonstrate that will,” Abe said. The two also condemned a North Korean missile launch seemingly timed to correspond with their meeting.
While most in Japan appear pleased with the bilateral meeting, opposition members have used the meeting to condemn Abe for not opposing Trump policies openly – or, in some cases, merely for being too supportive of the United States.
The leader of the mainstream opposition Democratic Party, for example, condemned Abe for not issuing a statement opposing President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from terror-prone countries: “With the harsh attention focused on the issue, the sight of the Japanese prime minister happily enjoying golf is not something we can be proud of.” Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii, meanwhile, accused Abe of “kowtowing to Trump” by not addressing the refugee issue. Shii’s comments echoed protests from Chinese Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily, which published an editorial accusing Abe of “fetishizing” the relationship with the United States.
Should Abe have chosen to criticize the executive order, he would have likely triggered similar condemnation for Japan’s refugee policy. Japan accepted 0.26 percent of foreigners applying for refugee status in 2016: 28 people, none from Islamic State-held Syria or Iraq, but from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Africa. In 2015, the nation accepted 27 refugees. Upon being accepted, the government pays for Japanese lessons for refugees.
Challenged on these small refugee application rates in 2015, Abe argued that Japan is not yet fit to accept refugees because of the many social problems facing native Japanese people. “I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” he said in a speech announcing a new billion-dollar aid package for the Middle East.