WASHINGTON – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Japan, China and South Korea in the first week of December, to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other top officials, the White House said Monday.
Biden, who will visit Japan between Dec. 2 and 4, is scheduled to meet with Abe and compare notes with officials on bilateral ties and Asia-Pacific affairs, according to Tokyo.
Biden’s visit to Japan comes ahead of a ministerial meeting in Singapore among the United States, Japan and 10 other countries involving negotiations for concluding the U.S.-led TPP pact by the end of this year.
The vice president’s visit may also draw attention to the long-standing issue of replacing U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma with a new airstrip in Okinawa in line with a bilateral accord.
Tokyo has asked Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima to permit a runway project off the Henoko coast in Nago before starting construction on the site for the base to replace Futenma, in the city of Ginowan.
Nakaima, who wants Futenma closed and any replacement somewhere away from Okinawa, has said he won’t decide until December at the earliest whether to green-light the project.
In Beijing and Seoul, Biden will meet leaders to compare notes on global and regional issues, the White House said.
The vice president will discuss with South Korean leaders “our close cooperation and coordination to address security threats,” the White House said, apparently referring to issues related to North Korea, such as the possible resumption of dialogue with Pyongyang on denuclearizing the hermit state.
The U.S. and South Korea as well as Japan and China are members of the stalled talks on North Korea’s denuclearization.
The six-party talks, which also involve Russia, have been on hold since 2008 as North Korea has continued with its nuclear arms quest despite its commitment to abandoning the program under the multinational framework.
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