Tokyo, Washington arranging for Abe to address U.S. Congress in spring


Tokyo and Washington are in final preparations for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to address Congress during a visit to the United States this spring, a Japanese government official said Saturday.

Arrangements are well underway for Abe to speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, something no Japanese prime minister has ever done, the official said on condition of anonymity.

It also would be the first time a Japanese prime minister has addressed Congress since 1961, when Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda spoke before the House of Representatives. Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, addressed Congress in 1957.

Abe, who plans to travel to the United States during the holiday-studded Golden Week from late April through early May, is expected to say that Japan has consistently followed a peacefull path since the end of World War II, and to call for a future-oriented relationship between the two countries.

He is also likely to say deepening Japan-U.S. economic ties by sealing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact would be mutually beneficial.

According to the government official, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed, when he called on the prime minister’s office on Feb. 13 during a trip to Japan, that Abe address Congress, and he agreed.

Abe also expressed hope to make address Congress during a meeting in Tokyo on Monday with a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers led by Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat.

Tokyo and Washington may also preparing for a summit between Abe and President Barack Obama a joint statement calling for a robust Japan-U.S. alliance.

In the document, Japan and the United States will vow to assume leadership roles on issues of global interest. It will also refer to revised bilateral defense cooperation guidelines intended to enhance military deterrence.

In 2006, the possibility of then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi addressing a joint session of Congress was discussed, but did not come to fruition because some U.S. lawmakers wanted him to promise to stop visiting war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.