Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama are expected to meet in 2015 and reaffirm the bonds between their two countries on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Tokyo and Washington are likely to hold a bilateral summit, where they will considering compiling a joint document that will outline the two countries’ intention to expand their alliance, senior Japanese and U.S. government officials said.
The two sides are set to resume their work soon after New Year’s holidays to arrange Abe’s visit to the United States sometime in the first half of 2015 for talks with Obama. Abe’s U.S. visit for a meeting with the U.S. leader would be the first since February 2013.
Abe and Obama are hoping to meet ahead of events planned by China and Russia around summer to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the officials said.
Tokyo and Washington are aiming to check countries like China that may step up their criticism of Japan over historical issues. They will emphasize that Japan and the United States have played a central role in creating the postwar regional order and will continue to lead the effort, the officials said.
At the bilateral summit, Abe and Obama are expected to confirm that Japan has consistently followed a pacifist path in the 70 since its defeat in the war, and that the country has contributed to global peace and stability, the officials said.
The two leaders are expected to agree to expand and fortify the Japan-U.S. alliance, partly through a planned revision of the bilateral defense cooperation guidelines following the Japanese government’s constitutional reinterpretation in July 2014 to lift the self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, according to the officials.
Abe and Obama are also expected to discuss their countries’ responses to China’s growing maritime activities, North Korea’s nuclear program and the recent hacker attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., a U.S. movie studio affiliated with Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony Corp. .
The timing of Abe’s U.S. visit will likely depend on when the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations between Japan, the United States and 10 other countries are concluded.
The significance of the visit would vary considerably depending on whether it will come before or after the conclusion of the TPP talks, a senior U.S. Department of State official said.
Assuming the TPP talks are concluded successfully, the Japanese and U.S. governments are examining an option of arranging Abe’s visit during Japan’s Golden Week holiday period between late April and early May.
Obama, who has two years before his second term expires, apparently wants to make the U.S. rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region one of his diplomatic legacies.
The U.S. leader is thus encouraging Japan and South Korea, both U.S. allies, to mend their relations that have been strained due to historical and territorial issues. At the expected summit with Abe, Obama may call on Tokyo to move to improve its relationship with Seoul, sources said.