Before U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Japan for the start of his tour of Asia, the following tweet was posted from his official Twitter account on Nov. 3, during his brief stop off in Hawaii. It said, "Remember #PearlHarbor."
The above phrase is a clear reference to the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which directly led to the start of the Pacific War. However, some people found the tweet to be too provocative, considering that Trump was on the verge of meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo for a summit meeting designed to emphasize the strong bond between the two countries.
What was the president's intention behind this particular tweet? What is his Twitter strategy? And was the message written by Trump himself or by a White House staffer?
Professor Danny Molden, of Aichi Shukutoku University, who has been observing Trump's tweets, has noted that when the tweets were posted by staffers, they have always used an iPhone. Initially, it was easy to tell which tweets were directly by Trump, and which were not, as the American president used a different mobile model. However, since Trump's switch to an iPhone in April, it has become more difficult to make this distinction.
Nevertheless, as Molden says, Trump's use of grammar and vocabulary is about the same as that of an elementary school sixth-grader, whereas White House staffers' use of English is more sophisticated. Moreover, assuming that the president is not that proficient at operating a smartphone, Molden surmises that any tweets that come with video attachments -- such as the "Remember #PearlHarbor" one -- must be posted by staffers.
Regardless of who physically posts the tweets though, the academic thinks that the "Remember #PearlHarbor" message was designed to present a bold image to American supporters and military personnel, with Japan given only a secondary consideration behind the U.S., in a move fuelled by Trump's own concerns about dwindling support among American voters.
However, despite its timing, the Japanese government does not appear to be particularly concerned. As a source close to the government mentions, "Trump was probably showing his gratitude to both serving and retired military personnel in Hawaii, as part of his first visit there as president. Furthermore, as his latest tour includes a number of Asian countries, and not just Japan, we need to look beyond the notion that this tweet exclusively relates to Japan."
In fact, some people think that the Pearl Harbor tweet is a reference to the fact that North Korea is aiming missiles toward Hawaii -- serving as a reminder of how the U.S. has responded in the past to attacks from other countries.
Trump is renowned for the continuous flow of controversial tweets that emerge from his account. Before and after his inauguration in January, he released tweets that were critical of firms such as Toyota Motor Corp., in addition to the governments of other countries. In more recent times, he has referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Twitter as "Rocket Man."
In October, American cartoonist Scott Adams released an article in the Wall Street Journal, discussing Trump's tweets. In particular, Adams referred to tweets that were critical of American media companies such as NBC News and CNN. In sum, the cartoonist believes that Trump draws people by using extreme, controversial tweets -- but beneath those statements, there is a subtle, underlying rhetoric designed to make people believe that what he is saying is right.
Meanwhile, Molden points out that Trump's tweets are interesting because it is difficult to tell if they are real or a joke. However, taking into account their potential impact on the international community, the academic also adds that they are actually quite dangerous.