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Economy

Abe and Trump hit it off on the East Coast

Japanese prime minister even treated to a ride on Air Force One

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting in the Oval Office.   © Reuters

PALM BEACH, Florida -- For an American president under fierce criticism from around the world, it must have been a welcome relief to hear the Japanese prime minister was almost begging for a chance to sit down and talk.

And so the previously bombastic Donald Trump on Friday in Washington welcomed Shinzo Abe with an unprecedented level of hospitality.

"We have a very, very good bond -- very, very good chemistry," President Trump said during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe, after the two had that talk at the White House.

It must be said, however, that Trump cut the talks short ... but only so he could spend more time lunching with Abe.

This photo of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump aboard Marine One is from President Trump's Twitter feed.

It was the second time for the two to meet. Abe had flown to New York for a meet and greet only days after Trump won the U.S. presidency in an election in early November.

"When I greeted him today at the car," Trump said, "I shook hands, but I grabbed him and hugged him because that's the way we feel."

Trump is known to have an obsession with hygiene and is rarely seen shaking hands. But when he appeared before journalists ahead of the summit, he held, shook, pulled and patted Abe's hand for 19 seconds. It was the shake seen 'round the world, as video of it quickly went viral.

The Washington Post described it as "super-awkward."

And it was only the beginning.

Later, Trump offered Abe a seat on Air Force One, and they jetted off to Palm Beach, Florida, where they stayed at a Trump family-owned resort. It is quite unusual for a foreign head of state to climb aboard the plane. Abe was even carried by Marine One, the presidential helicopter, from the White House to Andrews Air Force base. There, he and Trump boarded Air Force One.

Upon arriving at the Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump and his wife, Melania, hosted a dinner for Abe and his wife, Akie. The two couples spent about two hours at an open-air dinner table with flickering candles. "They are a wonderful couple!" Trump tweeted later.

It was like a ... honeymoon. In fact, there was a previous honeymoon between the leader of Japan and his U.S. counterpart. In the 1980s, Yasuhiro Nakasone and Ronald Reagan got along swimmingly, even though Reagan played the trade card on their first date, demanding that Japan open its beef and orange markets to U.S. ranchers and farmers.

A government official close to Abe said that it is important "to deepen mutual trust so as to be able to say no when it is necessary."

Yes, that sounds like a sour note. If things do go wrong, Trump might end up thinking of that Florida weekend he spent with Abe during his first month in office less as a welcome relief and more as an irrational exuberance.

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