• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. President Barack Obama were expected to underscore the bilateral alliance during their meeting Tuesday to coordinate a response to the global economic crisis, climate change and challenges such as Afghanistan and North Korea.

Aso is the first foreign leader invited by Obama to the White House, but uncertainties remain over what concrete results can be achieved. The prime minister’s support rate has fallen so low at home that many believe he may not be able to remain in office much longer.

Aso was expected to announce fresh aid for Pakistan, including low-interest loans, to demonstrate Tokyo’s support for the United States in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, one of Obama’s foreign policy priorities.

“At a time when the world is riddled with problems such as the financial crisis, terrorism and global warming,” Aso said in Tokyo before his departure, “it is most important for the United States and Japan, which are the world’s largest and second-largest economies, to share recognition on the need to cooperate in tackling seriously the worldwide and long-term problems.”

“While time is limited, this will be an important meeting in which (the leaders will discuss) how the international community can overcome this global (financial) crisis,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Monday.

Aso plans to convey the message that “Japan will do whatever it can with its financial and economic capabilities for stabilizing the international economy,” and will engage in a “frank discussion” with Obama on the controversial “Buy American” provision in the U.S. economic stimulus package, Kawamura said.

Meeting ahead of the Group of 20 financial summit scheduled for April 2 in London, Aso and Obama are expected to coordinate steps to deal with the global economic downturn.

They will agree to press ahead with concerted efforts to boost the bilateral alliance and address the situation in North Korea, including its nuclear and missile threats, which Tokyo and Washington hope to resolve through the six-party talks.

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