Shinzo Abe, the presumptive prime minister, got his U.S. leaders mixed up Tuesday when he told business chiefs he had been speaking to “President Bush” after a phone call from Barack Obama.
The gaffe came in one of Abe’s first speaking engagements since his Liberal Democratic Party won Sunday’s Lower House election.
Abe, who was prime minister in 2006 and 2007 in the final years of George W. Bush’s presidency, quickly realized his error when the assembled journalists and business leaders began chuckling.
The 58-year-old corrected his verbal misstep and told officials from Keidanren, the top business lobby, that he and Obama had agreed on the importance of the Japan-U.S. security alliance.
Abe is expected to be formally elected prime minister by fellow lawmakers on Dec. 26.
Business chiefs had been kept waiting for Abe, who turned up around an hour late.