When U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Japan on Monday to start a three-nation tour that will also take him to South Korea and China, his most urgent task will be to assure Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the U.S. stands firmly against China’s new air defense identification zone, which encompasses the Senkaku Islands, even as he prods Tokyo to help ease tensions with Beijing.

It’s an important visit for the longer term as well. Biden faces the further challenge of convincing Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing that the Obama administration’s touted pivot to Asia won’t fail due to budget constraints in Washington that will likely impact the U.S. military presence in the region or to growing skepticism in Congress regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

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