By John Hudson and
During a tense meeting at the White House in June, President Trump caught Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe off guard with a pointed remark.
“I remember Pearl Harbor,” the president said, referring to the surprise attack that propelled the United States into World War II.
Trump then launched into a blistering critique of Japan’s economic policies, according to people familiar with the conversation. He railed against the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and urged Abe to negotiate a bilateral trade deal that is more favorable to U.S. exporters of beef and automobiles.
The meeting, which left Abe exasperated, epitomized the paradoxical nature of Trump’s closest relationship with a foreign leader.
The two men have a tight rapport — Trump has met with Abe eight times, more than with any other counterpart, and talked to him on the phone 26 times. White House aides say they joke about golf, with Trump complimenting Abe on his agile moves while ribbing him about video footage that appears to show him falling into a sand bunker. Trump sees Abe as a savvy negotiator and a worthy counterpart — unlike many other world leaders who draw his derision. He calls Abe his “good friend.”
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