Did Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominate U.S. President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize? Trump seems to think so.
The U.S. leader said Friday in a wide-ranging speech from the Rose Garden of the White House that Abe had sent a “most beautiful” “five-page letter” to the Nobel committee to nominate him for the prize for his work to denuclearize North Korea.
“Prime Minister Abe of Japan gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize,” Trump said. “He said, ‘I have nominated you, respectfully on behalf of Japan, I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize.’ “
Trump said he thanked Abe at the time, but added that he did not expect to win the prize and that that was “OK.”
The Japanese government has not made such an announcement and did not immediately respond to the claim. Contacted by Kyodo News, the Japanese Embassy in Washington said it would refrain from commenting on the issue.
The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Trump alluded to 2017, when North Korea lobbed two longer-range missiles over Hokkaido, stoking concern in the country and with Abe, who characterized the launches as “unprecedented.”
“He had rocket ships and he had missiles flying over Japan, and they had alarms going off. … Now all of a sudden they feel good, they feel safe. I did that,” Trump claimed.
Abe has long worked to forge strong personal ties with Trump, with some observers saying he has one of the closest relationships with the mercurial U.S. president out of all world leaders, having met and spoken with Trump over the telephone dozens of times.
Still, Trump has railed against Japanese economic policies, including Washington’s trade deficit with Tokyo, while pushing Abe to negotiate a bilateral trade deal more favorable to U.S. exporters of beef and automobiles.
In his freewheeling speech Friday, Trump also took the opportunity to rip into his predecessor and longtime nemesis, President Barack Obama, with the president alleging that the former leader didn’t even know why he received the prize in 2009.
“They gave it to Obama. He didn’t even know what he got it for. He was there for about 15 seconds and he got the Nobel Prize. He said, ‘Oh, what did I get it for?'” Trump said.
“With me, I probably will never get it.”
According to the Nobel Committee, Obama received his prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” in 2009, a year he worked to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. He was the fourth U.S. president to be honored by the committee.
This year, there are 304 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize, out of which 219 are individuals and 85 are organizations, the Nobel Committee has said. The submission deadline was Jan. 31.
According to Nobel rules, “neither the names of nominators nor of nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize may be divulged until 50 years have elapsed.”
Trump has repeatedly boasted that he deserves much of the credit for the eased tensions on the Korean Peninsula. But observers say Trump’s string of bellicose threats directed at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his country in 2017 — including his vow to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea and to “totally destroy” the nation of 25 million people if it threatened the U.S. or its allies — contributed much to the fears of a bloody and possibly nuclear conflict at the time.
In response to these fears, the leaders of U.S.-allied Japan and South Korea have sought to forge closer ties with the unpredictable Trump, and have also massaged his ego by crediting him with the burgeoning detente with Pyongyang.
Last March, at a bilateral summit at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Abe showered praise on the U.S. leader for his role in the crisis.
“The situation surrounding North Korea, due to the decisive decision by President Trump on the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, is at a historical turning point,” Abe said.
And in April last year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that Trump deserved the award, according to the South Korean presidential office, suggesting the credit-hungry U.S. president “can take the Nobel Prize” — so long as the two Koreas achieve peace.
In January of that year, he also hailed Trump, saying he “deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks.”
This prompted some to suggest Trump may have confused Abe and Moon during his speech Friday.
“I think President Trump has mistaken PM Abe with someone else. It simply doesn’t make sense,” Keio University professor Toshihiro Nakayama wrote on Twitter.
If this is the case, “Then it almost automatically means President Moon showed a ‘beautiful letter’ to President Trump,” he added.
Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. State Department official who worked on North Korean issues, noted Abe’s moves to cultivate a relationship with Trump, writing on Twitter that the news, if true, is “a pretty deft move to use on a man who has repeatedly proven receptive to flattery.”
Whatever the case, if Trump were to oversee the verifiable dismantling of the North’s nuclear arms and missile programs and formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, he would claim an accomplishment that has eluded his predecessors.
But much remains unsettled, and events could turn on Trump’s upcoming second summit with North Korea’s Kim on Feb. 27 and 28 in Hanoi.