• Kyodo

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U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to visit Japan and China in mid-April, U.S. government and diplomatic sources said Thursday.

It would be Cheney’s first trip to Japan since taking office in January 2001. He is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Iraq’s reconstruction and North Korea’s nuclear arms program, they said.

Cheney is also expected to meet with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi during his stay in Tokyo, they said.

He had initially planned to visit Japan, South Korea and China last April, but the trip was postponed after the U.S.-led coalition forces launched an invasion of Iraq in March.

At the planned series of talks in Tokyo, Cheney is expected to thank Japan for its dispatch of Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, and seek support for a U.S.-proposed initiative to promote democratization and economic reforms in the Middle East, the sources said.

Also high on the agenda will be how to resolve the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions through six-party talks, they said.

Cheney is known to take a hardline stance on North Korean issues.

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