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Controversy emerges over documentation of Abe-Trump talks during golf diplomacy

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, walks alongside U.S. President Donald Trump during a round of golf at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, on Nov. 5, 2017. (Mainichi)

Controversy has arisen over the documentation of diplomatic records of conversations exchanged between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump during their recent golf excursion near Tokyo, it has been learned.

"Generally speaking, it is the norm to keep a record of diplomatic exchanges that need to be recorded," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference on Nov. 7.

In the case of the Abe-Trump golf diplomacy in Saitama Prefecture on Nov. 5, the interpreters who accompanied the two leaders "couldn't necessarily hear all of their conversations," a senior official with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed.

The Foreign Ministry usually keeps a record of remarks exchanged between the leader of Japan and the heads of other countries. These records are in principle declassified after 30 years have passed since their creation, and the ministry has released declassified documents to the public on a regular basis.

Prime Minister Abe and President Trump spent about two hours at the golf course in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, and at times exchanged conversations without interpreters.

After the golf trip, Abe told reporters, "We were able to take our time having in-depth discussions on matters including delicate subjects."

Opposition parties have raised questions about how talks on the golf course are recorded. After Abe and Trump played golf together in the United States in February, Democratic Party legislator Yuichiro Hata grilled Abe during a House of Councillors plenary session, saying, "It makes me wonder what was discussed during these meetings, including the golf outing." However, Abe stopped short of providing a detailed explanation over the matter.

A senior official with the Japanese Communist Party commented, "It is problematic that there are no diplomatic records left. There is no way we can verify the content of their conversations."

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