Xi told Abe he wouldn’t be a communist if born in the US

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TOKYO – Chinese President Xi Jinping told the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he probably would not have joined the Communist Party if he had been born in the United States, but would have been a member of the Democratic or Republican parties.

“In other words, he didn’t see any point in a party that doesn’t wield political power,” Mr Abe is cited as saying in a memoir released in Japan on Wednesday, seven months after the former Japanese leader was fatally shot on the campaign trail.

The book, based on interviews with Japan’s longest-serving premier, relates details of his interactions with other global leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin – described as “surprisingly friendly” and fond of dark humour.

Former US president Donald Trump is portrayed as inclined to make long phone calls, mostly about golf. 

Mr Abe stepped down in 2020 amid criticism of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, blaming a recurrence of a chronic digestive problem. Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida previously served as Mr Abe’s foreign minister, and many of his policies are seen as a continuation of his former boss’s legacy.

The following are some of the other points from the book:

  • Mr Xi appeared to be reading out prepared scripts in his early meetings with Abe. From about 2018, Mr Xi gained confidence and started to speak more freely, Mr Abe added.
  • Mr Trump used to call Mr Abe to consult him about policy. The calls would last an hour or more, and wander off topic, something Mr Abe found tiring. The Japanese leader found himself having to change the subject back to diplomatic issues. According to the book, in a call after Mr Abe announced his resignation, Mr Trump said he may have conceded too much to Mr Abe in trade talks.
  • Most US presidents see themselves as “the leader of the Western world”, but Mr Trump complained about having to bear the burden of the West and did not think in terms of a divide between free and authoritarian countries, Mr Abe said. “He didn’t really have the concept of the US bringing the West together to change the behaviour of China and Russia.”
  • Former US president Barack Obama “only talked about work”, and never indulged in chit-chat, Mr Abe said. As a former lawyer, he was also detail-oriented. “To be honest, he was a difficult type for me to build friendly relations with. But there was no problem working with him.”
  • Mr Abe accused former South Korean president Moon Jae-in of wanting to use anti-Japanese feeling to buoy his administration as tensions flared over whether Japan had sufficiently compensated Seoul for its past colonisation.
  • Aides who had worked at Japan’s Trade Ministry took the initiative on restricting semiconductor-related exports to South Korea. “I said it’s natural to manage trade with countries that can’t keep international agreements,” Mr Abe said, adding that he had deliberately linked the issue to the dispute over compensation.
  • Mr Abe said he told former German chancellor Angela Merkel he did not want to sanction Russia over its 2014 invasion of Crimea, because he wanted to prioritise talks on territory that Tokyo and Moscow have disputes over. BLOOMBERG

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