• Kyodo

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering visiting Japan in early March in what would be her first trip to the country in seven years, according to sources familiar with bilateral relations.

Merkel and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to affirm closer cooperation on their quest to become permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, especially as next year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the sources said.

Abe dissolved the Lower House on Nov. 21 for a snap election to be held Dec. 14. Abe will meet Merkel if he stays in power after the election.

The two governments are considering setting Merkel’s Japan trip for March 8 and 9, according to the sources.

Merkel last visited Japan in 2008 for a Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido.

During her upcoming trip, Japan and Germany are expected to ensure increased cooperation among the so-called Group of Four nations seeking reform of the U.N. Security Council. The group comprises Japan, Germany, Brazil and India.

Tokyo and Berlin are likely to agree to accelerate negotiations on a free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union. They are also to discuss issues such as the situation in Ukraine, the activities of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Abe invited Merkel to Japan during a meeting in Berlin in April and Merkel she said she would like to visit next year.

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