U.S. President Donald Trump has said Japan's Shinzo Abe (L) nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Japanese politicians are reacting in disbelief following claims from U.S. President Donald Trump that Japan's prime minister requested Trump be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Some of the strongest responses are coming from Japan's opposition-party politicians who have described the incident as an "embarrassment," but criticism is growing within the ruling party as well, according to local press reports.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not denied Trump's claims.
During a speech on border security in the Rose Garden on Friday, Trump said Abe had shown him a copy of a five-page letter that "he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize."
"It's the most beautiful five-page letter," Trump said.
Quoting anonymous government sources in Tokyo, Japan's Kyodo News reported Tuesday the letter is "real" and Abe did recommend Trump for the prize. Japanese media have also reported Abe may have made the recommendation following an "informal request" by phone from Trump to support his candidacy.
The Japanese public may have been surprised by the reports, owing to growing wariness about the United States and Trump's "America First" approach to foreign policy.
A recent Pew research poll shows 66 percent of Japanese surveyed said "U.S. power and influence" is a "rising concern."
At home, Abe has raised doubts about the impact of negotiating with North Korea, but also sent mixed messages with statements signaling a willingness to sit down and meet with Kim Jong Un.
Akira Kawasaki of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons told Kyodo it would be inappropriate for Trump to receive the Nobel Peace Prize because of his nationalistic remarks; Kawasaki's group won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
Ahead of the second summit between Trump and Kim, the two sides are "seriously considering" exchanging liaison officers, CNN reported Tuesday.
The move is being considered even as satellite imagery shows North Korea has expanded a key long-range missile base, according to the report.