Congratulatory Aso requests early meeting

by Jun Hongo

The government congratulated new U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday and was quick to request an early meeting with him.

“I believe President Obama will exercise outstanding leadership and achieve great success,” Prime Minister Taro Aso said in a statement released after the inauguration ceremony, expressing optimism that Obama will address the world’s many challenges.

“I intend to work hand in hand with President Obama to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance,” Aso said.

Japan is eager to become one of the first nations, or at least the first Asian country, to meet with the new U.S. administration as a sign that Washington prioritizes bilateral ties with Tokyo.

Aso may also be eager to become one of the first to meet him in hopes of boosting his slumping approval rate, experts said. But Obama is going to have his hands full dealing with domestic issues, most notably the ailing economy.

A Foreign Ministry official in charge of North American affairs said Aso will hopefully be able to meet with Obama before an economic summit scheduled for April in London.

Other highlights of Obama’s speech were his pledge to bring peace to Afghanistan and his commitment to harness clean energy, including solar and wind power, to fight global warming, the official said.

Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka also stated in a news conference earlier this week that deepening ties with Washington is the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy, and that it is vital for the two leaders to meet at an early stage.