Ex-adviser Steve Bannon says Abe was ‘Trump before Trump,’ urges him to play hardball with China

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Steve Bannon, the controversial former chief strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump, on Friday credited Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for pioneering a global “nationalist” movement while urging him to form a united front with Washington against an “expansionist” and “predatory” China.

Bannon was in Tokyo to address dozens of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a gathering held at its headquarters in Nagatacho — the political center of Japan.

In the speech, Bannon — often hailed as the key architect of the 2016 presidential campaign that catapulted Trump into America’s highest office — reflected on how his team was “inundated” with calls from governments all over the world the moment the real estate mogul accomplished the “most unexpected victory in the history of the United States.”

And before his inauguration, there was one foreign leader Trump agreed to meet: Japan’s prime minister.

“Prime Minister Abe is a great hero to the grassroots, the populist, and the nationalist movement throughout the world,” Bannon told the LDP gathering.

And before there was Trump and other right-wing populists, Prime Minister Abe was the first nationalist leader to win an election in an industrialized democracy and successfully govern as a nationalist, Bannon said.

“Prime Minister Abe was Trump before Trump,” he declared, eliciting laughter from some LDP lawmakers.

The bulk of Bannon’s 40-minute speech was spent unleashing a bitter diatribe against China, which he argued is posing a threat to “Japan, the United States and the Pacific.”

He branded it a “hegemonic” and “totalitarian” power that thrives on technologies it “stole” from Japan and the U.S., while alleging that Chinese people are “oppressed,” “tortured” and “abused” by high-echelon officials within the Chinese Communist Party.

“The defenders of the CCP say, ‘China is not expansionist … It’s always their neighbors that are expansionist,’ ” Bannon said. “That is quite simply a lie.”

“The radical cadre in the CCP is the most geopolitically ambitious, aggressive, expansionist power in world history,” he said, explaining how China’s trademark “One Belt, One Road” initiative preys on infrastructure-hungry developing countries by lending them money that “in no way can be paid back,” to put them under Beijing’s control.

Bannon sought to rally support from LDP lawmakers by emphasizing that against such a backdrop, Japan must stand firm and fight China’s assertive rise in solidarity with a Trump-led America.

If the “strong, robust” combination of Japan and the U.S. is realized, he said, “there is nobody in the Pacific that can stand up to that. China is a paper tiger.”

Citing recent signs of Beijing’s economic slowdown, he added: “We have the opportunity to bring them to their knees now. The way to do that is a united Japan and United States.”

At the onset of the LDP’s meeting with Bannon, LDP lawmaker Katsuyuki Kawai, who serves as a special foreign policy adviser to Abe, credited Bannon with his “deep insight” into the inner workings of the Trump administration even though he’s no longer part of it.

Kawai claimed he was able to prepare for the sudden resignations in the past of some key figures within the administration thanks to Bannon, who, according to the lawmaker, had predicted for him these exact personnel changes in advance.

So what predictions did Bannon have to offer LDP lawmakers?

Trump, he said, is going through “hell” at the moment as Democrats ratchet up efforts to investigate him over his campaign and business dealings.

But still, with his “successful” negotiations against China and the “continuation of the peace process and the denuclearization process” in North Korea, Trump “will not only win in 2020 but he will win by more electoral votes than he won in 2016,” Bannon said.

BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI
Japan Times

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