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Obama summit set for April 24

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama plan to meet April 24 in Tokyo, where they are expected to reaffirm the Japan-U.S. alliance, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday.

Japan will invite Obama on April 24 and 25 as a state guest, though the exact date of his arrival is not yet known, Suga said at a news conference, indicating Obama may arrive in Japan on April 23.

Obama will be the first U.S. president to visit Japan as a state guest since Bill Clinton in April 1996. The trip is part of an Asian tour that will also take Obama to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The two governments are not considering issuing a joint statement or declaration after the summit, due partly to insufficient progress in bilateral consultations toward advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, according to sources familiar with bilateral relations.

Instead, the two governments are planning to release a “fact sheet” outlining areas of bilateral cooperation such as cybersecurity and space cooperation, the sources said.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Abe and Obama “will stress the role of the Japan-U.S. alliance as a contributor to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.” He said he hopes they will announce further areas of specific cooperation.

Japan expects Abe and Obama to discuss various areas of bilateral cooperation, including ways to promote TPP negotiations, Suga said.

During the visit, Obama will have an audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and attend a dinner party at the Imperial Palace, according to Suga and Kishida.

Observers said Tokyo appears poised to reaffirm the solid alliance with Washington through Obama’s trip, especially after Abe’s visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in December and controversial remarks related to Japan’s wartime history by the head of public broadcaster NHK and others drew concern among U.S. policymakers.

Abe and Obama are expected to affirm cooperation in bolstering cooperation with South Korea in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as reducing the burden on Okinawa Prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan.

The leaders are also likely to discuss how to cope with China’s increased territorial claims in the East and South China seas, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Obama is expected to back the Abe government’s efforts to resolve North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.