White House hails Abe, hopes he mends Asia ties

Kyodo

The White House, while congratulating new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, indicated Tuesday the United States hopes he will work to improve Japan’s soured ties with China and South Korea,

“We anticipate that our close relationship is going to continue with Mr. Abe and that he will be a good force for the (Asia-Pacific) region,” White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

But she stressed the need to “see how things develop before we comment any further” when asked whether Washington is concerned about Japan’s ties with China under Abe, who is seen as a hawk. “I’m not going to speculate.

“But we certainly congratulate Mr. Abe,” she said.

Perino noted that President George W. Bush and Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, “had a wonderful relationship, and the president appreciated all that he did in his leadership.”

Some influential U.S. lawmakers and experts have urged Koizumi’s successor not to visit Yasukuni Shrine so as to improve ties with Beijing and Seoul.

The strain on ties mainly stems from Koizumi’s annual visits to the shrine.

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that Tokyo and Washington have a “close treaty alliance,” and said the U.S. looks forward to working with Abe “across a broad and deep relationship.”

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