During a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on June 7, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly said “I remember Pearl Harbor” to the perplexed prime minister.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the meeting between the pair was “tense,” not helped by the president invoking the attack on the U.S. naval base that dragged the country into the action of World War II in December, 1941. The publication described Abe as being “exasperated by the remark.”
No one present could understand why the president had brought up the attack that occurred four-and-a-half years before he was even born into the conversation. It’s not the first time he has brought up history when speaking to the Japanese prime minister, and has been known to bring up the country’s “samurai past.”
Officials from Japan explained that Abe prefers not to immediately refute pointed comments from Trump, preferring not to bruise his ego.
During the meeting, in which the two men were touted to discuss trade and North Korea, Trump also blasted Japan’s economic policies. It came just days after Trump imposed heavy steel and aluminium tariffs on a number of U.S. allies, including Japan.
The meeting was also days before Trump was set to travel to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Abe apparently tried to dissuade the U.S. president from embarking on that journey to negotiate with the leader. The two hold very different views on the situation in North Korea.
Despite the tariffs, Japan have so far opted not to retaliate with tariffs of their own, unlike most other countries. But according to The Hill, Japan’s trade minister, Hiroshige Seko, said just last week that Tokyo might retaliate if Trump follows through with tariffs of 25 percent he has proposed imposing on car imports from Japan and European countries.
Abe and Trump have historically had a good relationship, even golfing together on a number of occasions. Throughout his presidency, Abe is the world leader Trump has had the most communication with, including eight meetings in person and 26 phone calls.
Trump has referred to Abe as a “good friend,” while Abe has called the U.S. president’s leadership “outstanding” and “remarkable.”
Their relationship over the past few months has become increasingly strained as the tariffs have affected the Japanese economy with the trade policy between the two nations becoming a sticking point with the two leaders.