Obama may visit as early as spring

Kyodo

Tokyo and Washington are arranging for President Barack Obama to make an official visit to Japan possibly next spring for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on strengthening the bilateral alliance, government sources said Wednesday.

It would be Obama’s first visit to Japan since November 2010, when he attended a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama.

“During a summit with Mr. Obama in February, Prime Minister Abe requested that he visit Japan,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

Suga indicated Japan is flexible about the timing. “At this point, we aren’t making concrete arrangements with a specific period in mind,” he said.

But one senior official expects Obama to visit around April, given the U.S. political schedule, while another said Japan wants him to come by next summer since the United States has a midterm election that fall.

Bill Clinton visited Japan in April 1996, the last U.S. president to do so as a state guest. Obama would be the sixth to visit in that capacity.

Abe and Obama would likely discuss the nature of the bilateral alliance in the future.

It is possible Obama would also go to China and South Korea before or after his Japan visit.