Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a page from his grandfather’s playbook in using golf to form ties with an American leader.
In talks with Donald Trump in New York on Thursday, Abe presented the real estate mogul with a golf club (Japanese media said it was a driver). Trump gave Abe a golf shirt in return.
In 1957, then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi — Abe’s grandfather and political role model — played a round of golf with President Dwight D. Eisenhower on a course in Maryland outside of the U.S. capital. News reports described the game as a “triumph for diplomacy.”
The Japanese leader told reporters in New York that he had frank discussions in a “warm atmosphere” at Trump Tower. He said he explained his views on a range of issues, but declined to comment on the substance of the talks in a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes.
The pair are known to be avid golfers. Abe spends his summers playing at courses close to his vacation home near Tokyo. Trump is affiliated with 17 golf properties worldwide, with the golf division of Trump Organization Inc. owning and managing most of the courses.
Abe has taken up the mantle for bolstering Japan’s Self-Defense Forces from Kishi, who was accused of war crimes for his role in colonizing parts of China but was never prosecuted. He campaigned for constitutional change as prime minister — a cause also pushed by Abe.
Kishi’s round of golf with Eisenhower, popularly known as “Ike,” took place three years before the Japanese leader signed a security treaty with the U.S. in the face of violent protests at home. He stepped down once the pact — the cornerstone of the current U.S.-Japanese alliance — was approved.
It’s not the first time Abe has used golf diplomacy. On a trip to Vietnam in 2006, during his first spell as prime minister, Abe gave then-President George W. Bush a photograph of their grandfathers playing in Maryland. He also gave President Barack Obama a putter made by a Japanese manufacturer.
As for the score in Kishi’s round with Eisenhower, reports said the game ended in a draw.