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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could not have wished for a better outcome from his summit meeting with President Donald Trump. To be sure, there were some awkward moments—like the Lost in Translation-like nineteen-second handshake. But Japan’s prime minister came to Washington to ensure that the U.S.-Japan alliance was on steady ground with the new administration and to explore the economic pathway for Japan as the president develops his America First agenda.
The formal meeting on Friday produced a joint statement and a presser that allowed both leaders to discuss their priorities. Trump read from the script when it came to the security guarantee the United States offers to Japan. In many ways, it read like the to-do list for the U.S.-Japan alliance: Deterring aggression. Check. Senkaku Islands protection. Check. China. Check. But with Trump’s addition of alliance reciprocity. Check.
For his part, Abe had his own check list, one that focused largely on the benefits of the liberal economic order. Shared democratic norms. Check. The rule of law. Check. Free and fair trade. Check. There was no reference to the Transpacific Partnership. Nor did Abe use the word protectionism. Nonetheless, Abe too echoed the alliance refrain that previous prime ministers might have used with U.S. presidents.
But Japan’s prime minister brought also some new ideas for working with the Trump administration. New avenues for economic cooperation will be explored including President Trump’s ambition for a nation-wide infrastructure improvement plan. Japan’s much vaunted high speed rail and its newer maglev technologies, Abe noted, could help. Maglev, for example, would allow President Trump to get from Washington to New York in an hour, he promised.
Equally important, a new high level conversation was established between the vice president, Michael Pence, and the deputy prime minister and finance minister, Aso Taro. They will delve into the various ways the United States and Japan can find common economic cause, one that will help both leaders fulfill their promises at home for economic growth and job creation.
Business done, the two leaders headed to Florida for extensive socializing. The Abes were scheduled for dinner with the Trumps along with Robert Kraft, the owner of New England Patriots, two or three rounds of golf, and lots of fun at Mar-A-Lago, Donald Trump’s private resort. On television, CNN and other media shared small glimpses of Abe and his wife, Akie, with Donald and his wife, Melania, seemingly having a wonderful time as a room of on-lookers set back at a discrete distance looked over their shoulders at the new U.S. president’s diplomatic gathering.
On Saturday, however, this carefully planned program of down time for Abe and Trump was interrupted by North Korea. The launch of a Pukguksong-2 missile from a mobile launch vehicle in North Pyongan province, which came down in the Sea of Japan, could not have been better timed.
At a hastily arranged press conference, Prime Minister Abe invoked the United Nations Security Council and decried the launch as “absolutely intolerable.” President Trump stood back until Abe turned over the podium, and then stated, “The United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%.”
From a Japanese perspective, no more needed to be said.
As summits go, it was an unusual one. The diplomatic ups and down of the first few weeks of the Trump administration had dominated the headlines, from the cancellation of the Mexican president’s visit to the curt twenty-minute phone call with Australia’s prime minister. But this was a hole in one for the U.S.-Japan relationship, reflecting the care with which both governments gave to ensuring success.
Back home in Tokyo, newspapers headlined the visit as an Abe-Trump “honey moon” or a “homerun,” but remained cautious as to what could be ahead. After Candidate Trump rattled many, initial worries in Japan seemed to have been assuaged.
Now it will be up to Vice President Pence and Deputy Prime Minister Aso to translate this initial diplomatic win into a meaningful economic agenda, and for Secretaries James Mattis and Rex Tillerson to assume leadership over the alliance agenda.
As Pyongyang just demonstrated, Asia will not stand still.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.