Abe wooed Trump with golf, just like his grandfather did with Eisenhower

This handout picture, released by Japan's Cabinet Secretariat on Nov 18, 2016, shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) in a meeting with US president-elect Donald Trump (left) in New York.
This handout picture, released by Japan's Cabinet Secretariat on Nov 18, 2016, shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) in a meeting with US president-elect Donald Trump (left) in New York.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking a page from his grandfather's playbook in using golf to form ties with an American leader.

In talks with US president-elect Donald Trump in New York on Thursday (Nov 17), Mr Abe presented the real estate mogul with a golf club (Japanese media said it was a driver). Mr Trump gave Mr Abe a golf shirt in return.

In 1957, then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi - Mr Abe's grandfather and political role model - played a round of golf with President Dwight D. Eisenhower on a course in Maryland outside of the US capital.

News reports described the game as a "triumph for diplomacy".

The Japanese leader told reporters in New York that he had frank discussions in a "warm atmosphere" at Trump Tower. He said he explained his views on a range of issues, but declined to comment on the substance of the talks in a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes.

The pair are known to be avid golfers. Mr Abe spends his summers playing at courses close to his vacation home near Tokyo. Mr Trump is affiliated with 17 golf properties worldwide, with the golf division of Trump Organisation Inc owning and managing most of the courses.

Mr Abe has taken up the mantle for bolstering Japan's defence forces from Mr Kishi, who was accused of war crimes for his role in colonising parts of China but was never prosecuted. He campaigned for constitutional change as prime minister - a cause also pushed by Mr Abe.

Mr Kishi's round of golf with Mr Eisenhower, popularly known as "Ike," took place three years before the Japanese leader signed a security treaty with the US in the face of violent protests at home.

He stepped down once the pact - the cornerstone of the current US-Japanese alliance - was approved.

It's not the first time Mr Abe has used golf diplomacy. On a trip to Vietnam in 2006, during his first spell as prime minister, Mr Abe gave then President George W. Bush a photograph of their grandfathers playing in Maryland. He also gave President Barack Obama a putter made by a Japanese manufacturer.

As for the score in Mr Kishi's round with Mr Eisenhower, reports said the game ended in a draw.