Abe eyes quick visit to U.S. if he becomes prime minister

Kyodo

Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe is considering visiting the United States and holding a summit with President Barack Obama in mid-January at the earliest if the opposition party wins the Dec. 16 general election and he is elected new prime minister, sources say.

The proposal, which has already been floated to Washington, is aimed at rebuilding the Japan-U.S. alliance, which some critics say has suffered under the Democratic Party of Japan, particularly over the stalled plan to relocate the Futenma military base in Okinawa, the sources said Friday.

Abe hopes to showcase a strong partnership with the United States on such issues as North Korea, whose plan to launch a satellite this month is seen as a cover for testing long-range ballistic missile technology, and the base relocation plan, the sources said.

An early visit would also send a message to China, the sources said, with Abe viewing deterioration in Japan-U.S. relations as helping raise the tension between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

Abe, who was prime minister between 2006 and 2007, will recapture the office if his LDP wins the Dec. 16 election. Opinion polls show that his party is on track to win a majority in the Lower House.