When discussing political affiliation with the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he would have joined either the Democratic or Republican Party had he been born in the United States and not the Communist Party.
Seven months after the former Japanese leader was fatally shot on the campaign trail, a memoir written by Abe and attributed to him was published in Japan on Wednesday.
From interviews with Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, this book shares insights into his relationships with world leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia, who is portrayed as “surprisingly friendly” and fond of dark humour. Ex-President of the United States Donald Trump is portrayed as someone who enjoys lengthy phone conversations, particularly those that revolve around the sport of golf.
Abe resigned in 2020 due to a recurrence of a chronic digestive problem, amid criticism of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s policies are seen as a continuation of Abe’s legacy because he was Abe’s foreign minister before becoming prime minister.
Some of the book’s other main points are as follows.
- Xi’s initial meetings with Abe gave the impression that he was reading from prepared scripts. Abe also noted that Xi’s confidence and outspokenness increased around the year 2018.
- Trump often consulted with Abe on policy matters. Abe found the long calls exhausting because they often went off topic and lasted an hour or more. The Japanese leader was forced to return the conversation to diplomatic matters. According to the book, Trump called Abe after Abe announced his resignation and admitted that he may have given up too much to Abe in trade talks.
- Abe said that while most US presidents see themselves as “the leader of the Western world,” Trump didn’t think in terms of a divide between free and authoritarian countries and instead complained about having to bear the burden of the West. He “really didn’t have the concept” of the United States rallying the rest of the West to influence China and Russia, the author writes.
- Abe claimed that former President Barack Obama “only talked about work” and never engaged in small talk. His background in law made him attentive to the smallest of details. “If I’m being completely honest, he was the kind of person it was tough for me to become friends with. It was easy to get along with him, though.
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- When tensions arose over whether or not Japan had adequately compensated Seoul for its past colonisation, Abe accused former South Korean President Moon Jae-in of trying to use anti-Japanese feeling to bolster his administration.
- Former Japanese trade ministry aides acted independently to limit exports of semiconductors to South Korea. Abe said, “I said it’s natural to manage trade with countries that can’t keep international agreements,” and he added that he had purposefully linked the issue to the dispute over compensation.
- Abe claimed he informed former German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he did not wish to sanction Russia for its 2014 invasion of Crimea in order to prioritise talks over territory disputed between Tokyo and Moscow.