US president Donald Trump and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe appear to have cemented a strong alliance with the help of golf under the Florida sun and North Korea’s reported ballistic missile launch.
The two leaders made a hastily-arranged joint statement in a ballroom of Mr Trump’s south Florida estate after the reported launch.
Mr Abe spoke first and longest, though his statement was terse.
“North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable,” he said through an interpreter.
He added that the North must comply fully with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, but noted that Mr Trump had assured him that the US supported Japan.
“President Trump and I myself completely share the view that we are going to promote further co-operation between the two nations,” he said.
“And also we are going to further reinforce our alliance.”
Mr Trump followed with even fewer words, saying: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%.”
With that, they left the room, a surprise of sorts, given that the usually outspoken Mr Trump did not condemn the launch.
In the opening days of his presidency, Mr Trump’s diplomacy had a rocky stretch that included contentious phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.
In contrast, the first visit by a foreign leader at his Mar-a-Lago estate was a friendly weekend of meetings, dinners and golf that suggested the new president was willing to invest time in developing close personal relationships with leaders he feels he can work with.
The president and first lady Melania Trump hosted a delegation dinner with Mr Abe and his wife on Saturday night.
At the time Mr Trump ignored a shouted question about the North Korea launch.
Focusing on the positive, he said Mr Abe’s visit had been “very very good” and that he and the Japanese leader “got to know each other very, very well” over their two days of meals, meetings and golfing.
The leaders, both frequent golfers, left Mar-a-Lago early on Saturday morning and headed north to one of Mr Trump’s golf courses in Jupiter, Florida.
Reporters and photographers from both countries, who were held in a room with blacked-out windows, did not catch a glimpse of the pair as they played.
But Mr Trump later posted a photo of them giving each other a high-five on the golf course and tweeted: “Having a great time hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the United States!”
Pro golfer Ernie Els joined them on the greens.
The pair also paid a visit to another nearby Trump property, The Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.
Mr Abe had joked at a joint press conference at the White House on Friday that he was looking forward to playing golf with Mr Trump, even though, he claimed, he’s not nearly as good on the links.
He said he planned to use the time to discuss the future of the world, the Pacific region and US-Japanese relations.
In a sign of unity, neither Japanese nor White House officials volunteered the pair’s final score.
Instead, the White House issued a statement saying the day was “both relaxing and productive” and that Mr Trump and Mr Abe had “had great conversations on a wide range of subjects”.
As their husbands golfed, Mrs Trump and Akie Abe toured the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in nearby Delray Beach, Mrs. Trump’s first solo event as first lady.
The women had lunch together at Mar-a-Lago.
Mr Trump also tended to other business in Florida, calling Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi and Colombian oresident Juan Manuel Santos as he continues conversations with foreign leaders.
The visit comes as the White House continues to consider its options after the stinging legal defeat by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a block on Mr Trump’s executive order suspending the nation’s refugee programme and barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
While the administration maintains that all options are on the table, including a Supreme Court appeal, Mr Trump said he was considering signing a “brand new order” as early as Monday, which could address some of the legal issues the court has identified.