Trump and Japan's Abe take a swing at golf diplomacy

JUPITER, Florida (Reuters) - President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hit the links on Saturday, as the two leaders looked to forge a bond over a round of golf diplomacy.

South African four-time majors champion Ernie Els joined Trump and Abe for a round at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, Trump said in a tweet Saturday evening.

Reporters were not allowed on the course to watch the president and prime minister while they golfed.

After four hours at the club, Trump tweeted a picture of himself and Abe on the golf course.

“Having a great time hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the United States,” Trump said in the tweet.

The 47-year-old Els, whose primary residence is in south Florida, followed in the footsteps of American former world number one Tiger Woods, who played golf with Trump in December.

Shortly after the golf round, Trump and Abe left the club to head to a private lunch.

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Between tweets about his visit with the Japanese prime minister and golfing with Abe and Els, Trump sent out a tweet again castigating the media over their treatment of his daughter Ivanka Trump.

“I am so proud of my daughter Ivanka. To be abused and treated so badly by the media, and to still hold her head so high, is truly wonderful!” he wrote.

Trump earlier this week blasted department store operator Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line, because of what the company said were poor sales.

Abe traveled to Florida on Air Force One with the new U.S. president after a more formal meeting at the White House on Friday. The weekend excursion is Trump’s first use of his Mar-a-Lago resort to entertain an international leader.

Washington and Tokyo have said the weekend trip is a sign of the importance that both leaders place on the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Abe, in particular, sought to ease concerns in Japan about the fate of the decades-long alliance under Trump, who had raised concerns about U.S. military spending in Japan during the rancorous 2016 presidential election campaign.

At a news conference on Friday, Trump and Abe focused on areas of common ground, with Trump setting aside campaign pledges to force Tokyo to pay more for U.S. defense aid and Abe promising to help the United States to create jobs.

On Friday night, Trump and Abe ate dinner with their wives on an outdoor patio at Mar-a-Lago. The couples were joined by Robert Kraft, owner of the National Football League’s New England Patriots, which won the Super Bowl last Sunday.

Trump and Abe are set to meet again for dinner Saturday evening, along with some members of the Japanese delegation. The two leaders are scheduled to depart Florida on Sunday.

Additional reporting by Andrew Both and Mary Milliken; Editing by Grant McCool and Leslie Adler