Kishida, Kerry to finalize Obama visit

JIJI

President Barack Obama will likely visit Japan in April during his tour of Asia and hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe despite Washington’s disappointment with his visit to Yasukuni Shrine, sources said.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to agree on the visit at a meeting in Washington on Friday, and the two countries will then start work to decide issues to be discussed at the summit, the sources said.

Key agenda items will likely include measures to deepen the bilateral alliance and ease regional tensions, and conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, the sources said.

Obama is expected to repeat his intention to strengthen the alliance, even though Abe’s visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in December angered China and South Korea and led the United States to express disappointment, the sources said.

He is likely to underscore Washington’s stance of calling for an easing in tensions between Japan and the two neighboring countries, the sources said.

Abe and Obama are expected to discuss more revisions to Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines and how to proceed with the planned relocation of the Futenma base in Okinawa, the sources said.

The leaders are also expected to highlight the two countries’ further cooperation on the TPP, the sources said.

It will be Obama’s third visit to Japan since he took office in early 2009. He last visited in November 2010, when the Democratic Party of Japan was still in power.

It would be the third time for Abe and Obama to meet. They got together last February and September.

At their meeting Friday, Kishida and Kerry are expected to discuss the regional situation following Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, the first by a sitting prime minister since 2006, and the effects of any visit by Obama to Japan, the sources said.

The Abe administration is hoping Obama will stay in Japan at least two days as a state guest.

But it remains to be seen if Obama can find the time because he also plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines, the sources said. He is also considering visiting South Korea.

Obama canceled a swing through Southeast Asia in October due to the U.S. government shutdown.

In November, Susan Rice, national security adviser to Obama, announced that the president would visit Asia this April.