Election 2020

Some in Japan Are Already Missing Trump

Conservative commentators dislike Biden, but they’re a minority.

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

A screen showing Joe Biden in Tokyo
Pedestrians walk past a big screen showing images of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Tokyo on Nov. 5. Takeshi Aoyama/Getty Images

Even as the U.S. presidential race drags on, at least some Japanese are already missing Donald Trump, whose reelection chances appear to be slipping as votes continue to be counted on Thursday.

“From FDR to Truman to Obama, nothing great happens to Japan under a Democratic president,” the conservative commentator Haruo Kitamura said on Japanese television. “At least Trump brought up the North Korean abductees at the U.N.,” he added, touching on the long-standing but largely fruitless campaign by Japan to get a clear accounting of Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and ’80s.

“We will be in big trouble when Biden wins, because he will suck up to China,” the well-known journalist Taro Kimura added.

Others have pointed out that U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, who served under President Barack Obama, had tweeted against a controversial dolphin killing that takes place off the waters of a small Japanese town each year. Her high-level protest, raising a touchy subject, earned a rebuke from then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is now the country’s prime minister.

The pro-Trump mood is definitely not universal. At the Japanese foreign ministry, where the North American bureau had been known for its high stress and long hours, there is likely to be some relief that the former niceties of consultative policymaking and diplomatic courtesies may come back in a more organized State Department under a Joe Biden presidency.

Overall public opinion will also not be sorry to see Trump leave. A survey conducted in February and March by the national broadcaster NHK found that 57 percent of respondents thought that Trump’s reelection would be negative for Japan. Only 10 percent thought it would be positive. And yes, polls in Japan are considered accurate.

William Sposato is a Tokyo-based writer who has been following Japan’s politics and economics for more than 20 years. He previously worked at Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

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