Japan's Abe on Shaky Ground as He Returns to Meet Trump

Japanese leader is plagued by scandals amid calls for his resignation
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2018 2:21 PM CDT
Japan's Abe to Visit Trump; N. Korea Least of His Worries
In this Feb. 10, 2017, file photo, President Trump, left, welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outside the West Wing of the White House.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Japan's Shinzo Abe became the first foreign leader to meet President Trump after the US election, and he returns for another face-to-face on Tuesday. As CNN notes, Abe sorely needs to score some points with voters back home. Trump may be facing strong political headwinds of his own, but Abe is in rougher shape, beset by cronyism scandals amid speculation that his days in office are numbered. As the two leaders prepare to meet at Mar-a-Lago, here's a look at related coverage:

  • Gone in June? Abe's political mentor, former premier Junichiro Koizumi, predicted Abe would resign in June at the end of the current session of parliament, reports Bloomberg. That would get him out ahead of a potentially embarrassing leadership vote within his Liberal Democratic Party in September. Just months ago, it seemed a safe bet Abe would cruise to a third term.

  • The scandals: The big one involves allegations that Abe's government sold public land for a pittance to a school connected to his wife. Worse, the Finance Ministry admitted fudging the paperwork to remove references to Abe and his wife, reports the Guardian. Abe also is accused of pulling strings to help a friend open a veterinary school.
  • The cover-up? Abe has for months largely weathered the political controversy, but patience appears to be wearing thin, reports the New York Times. “There has been a lot of new evidence that has come to light that there has been some kind of cover-up,” one Asian studies professor tells the newspaper. “As time goes on, the disjuncture between what he’s saying and the facts that are coming to light with the scandals just really increase public distrust and feelings that his leadership is no longer what the country needs.”
  • Not helping: A top official of the same Finance Ministry is accused of sexually harassing female journalists regularly, reports the Washington Post. A Japanese magazine has released audio of what it says is the official, Junichi Fukuda, asking a reporter, "Can I touch your breasts?" Abe has so far resisted demands that Fukuda be fired.
  • Sinking support: Thousands of protesters in Tokyo demanded Abe's resignation over the weekend, and his approval rating has dropped to 37%, per Kyodo News.
  • North Korea, trade: Abe had taken a hard-line position on North Korea, and Trump surprised him by agreeing to a summit with Kim Jong Un, notes Quartz. While in the US, Abe wants to make his case that Trump should press for the elimination of North Korean missiles that could reach Japan, while Trump may try to negotiate trade concessions from Tokyo in exchange for that. One sore spot: Trump didn't exempt Japan from his new steel tariffs, notes the Post.
(More Shinzo Abe stories.)

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