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Publication Date : 06-02-2014
Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan scheduled for April, the government has intensified efforts to coordinate views with the US government in preparation for summit talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Obama.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will visit the United States and talk with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington on Friday.
During the summit talks, Abe and Obama are expected to reaffirm the Japan-US alliance, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord negotiations.
Asked about his visit in December to Yasukuni Shrine at the House of Representatives Budget Committee Monday, Abe said, “By fully explaining my intentions, including the remarks I made as a prime minister, to avoid the misunderstanding of the United States, an important ally, I want to make the bond between Japan and the United States unshakable.”
He apparently had in mind the strain in Japan-US relations after the US government said it was “disappointed” with Abe’s recent visit to the shrine.
Abe intends to reaffirm the Japan-US alliance at the summit talks in order to contain the threat posed by China, which has intensified its pressure over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture as part of its expansion of maritime activities.
It is expected that the US and Japan sides will reaffirm the need to strengthen security cooperation, by such measures as revising the guidelines for defense cooperation between the two countries, and promoting the relocation of the US Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture, from Ginowan to Nago’s Henoko district.
Obama’s Asian tour in April will also include visits to the Philippines and Malaysia. The visit is aimed at underscoring anew the United States’ pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region. Diplomatic authorities of both Japan and the United States are said to have been in agreement from the outset that Obama’s tour should include a visit to Japan.
How Obama refers to the improvement of Japan’s relationships with China and South Korea is being closely watched, as is how he refers to Abe’s recent Yasukuni visit.
Regarding negotiations over the TPP framework, the government intends to aim for an early conclusion of the pact, government sources said.
However, the negotiations have been stalled because Japan and the United States remained apart over tariffs on agricultural products and automobiles, making it likely that the negotiations will not be concluded by the time of the summit talks, with the issue to be listed high on the agenda at the summit.