TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is lavishing U.S. President Donald Trump with a welcome reserved for formal state guests during his visit to Japan, looking to use hospitality to highlight close ties with its powerful ally.
Abe and his wife Akie on Sunday treated Trump and first lady Melania to a dinner featuring Ise lobster and wagyu beef at a high-end teppanyaki, or table grilling, restaurant in Tokyo's ritzy Ginza district. This was the first of four meals the leaders will eat together in just two days.
Trump kicked off his visit with a round of golf with Abe and Japanese professional player Hideki Matsuyama. The president is also slated to meet with the prime minister at the State Guest House, and a meeting with Emperor Akihito is on the agenda as well.
Trump is in Japan for an official working visit, which ranks behind state and official visits in terms of formality. Tokyo decided against the state guest designation given that this is just one leg in a longer tour of Asia, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
State visits in Japan are customarily limited to just one or two per year, with only one a decade from any given country. Japan just received a state guest from the U.S. in April 2014 -- then-President Barack Obama.
But Trump is receiving treatment on a par with a state guest. "It's pretty unusual for the prime minister to give a guest such constant attention -- even the U.S. president," a Japanese government source observed. Abe joined Obama for two dinners during the 2014 trip, but the two ate lunch separately.
A top Foreign Ministry official noted the contrast between Obama's "businesslike" visit and the treatment offered to Trump. "Showing Trump hospitality is the main focus this time," the official said. Tokyo hopes to showcase the strong U.S.-Japan alliance to not only Asia -- amid mounting tensions with North Korea -- but the international community as a whole.
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