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Abe, Xi invited on state visits to U.S. in spring

Kyodo

The White House has invited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping for state visits this year, and also hopes the leaders of South Korea and Indonesia can travel to Washington, President Barack Obama’s top foreign policy adviser said.

“I’m pleased to announce today that we have invited Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe of Japan and President Xi (Jinping) of China for state visits,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told an event Friday at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

Rice did not elaborate further, but Tokyo and Washington are trying to arrange Abe’s visit starting in late April or early May, according to sources familiar with the process.

Abe, who last visited the United States two years ago, and Obama will take up such issues as an early conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, according to the sources. The two will also focus on strengthening the security alliance through the first revision since 1997 of guidelines on bilateral cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military.

Rice did not give any time frame for a possible visit to the United States by Xi, who held a summit with Obama in California in June 2013.

Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have plummeted over the Japan-administered but China-claimed Senkaku Islands as well as clashing historical views of Japan’s invasion and occupation of parts of China before and during the war.

Obama and other U.S. leaders have repeatedly urged Tokyo and Beijing to ease tensions by engaging in dialogue, stressing that close cooperation between the two Asian powerhouses is indispensable to the region’s peace and prosperity.

Speaking at The Brookings Institution, Rice also said, “We look forward to welcoming other Asian leaders to the White House this year,” including South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Rice added there is no change in the Obama administration’s military and economic “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific.