WASHINGTON – The Japanese and U.S. governments are set to arrange an official trip by U.S. President Barack Obama to Japan in April, people familiar with bilateral relations said Wednesday.
During the trip, Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will reaffirm their commitment to strengthening the bilateral alliance in light of the growing regional presence of China and North Korea’s nuclear development programs, they said.
It would be Obama’s first official visit to Japan since November 2010, when he attended a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama.
Japan and the United States have bilateral challenges such as how to implement the stalled plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, a key component of the U.S. review of its military posture in the Asia-Pacific region.
Plans for the visit come as the Abe government is working on setting up the country’s first national security council to improve the policymaking process on security matters.
Attention, meanwhile, will be focused on whether Obama, who has called for a world without nuclear weapons, will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his trip to Japan.
U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Wednesday that the U.S. president will visit Asia in April, without elaborating.
Obama’s pledge to focus on Asia in foreign policy in his second term has been in doubt since he canceled a trip to Southeast Asia in October due to the partial U.S. government shutdown in the month.
Obama did not attend a series of planned events with his counterparts including the APEC summit in Indonesia and a summit to prepare for signing the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement by the end of this year.
Obama also sat out the APEC summit in September 2012 in Russia, saying he needed to attend a Democratic Party convention as part of his re-election bid.
The Obama administration released a set of strategies in 2011 focusing on Asia in the political, military and economic sectors in light of the growing influence of China in the region.