On April 29, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will address a joint session of the United States Congress. The Japan-U.S. alliance is now 63 years old, but this will be the first time that a Japanese leader will be accorded this high honor from the American government and people.

Abe's visit to the U.S. comes at a time when friction between the two countries is at an all-time low. The trade and economic disputes that incited tensions — and a sub-genre of paranoid movies about Japan — in the 1980s, when nine members of Congress even smashed a Toshiba radio with sledgehammers, rarely make an appearance nowadays.

Those past disputes probably explain why former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, though a political soulmate of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was never invited to address a joint session of Congress. Today, however, the bilateral relationship is very different. Japan's economic interests are more closely aligned with America's — the country is poised to join the U.S.-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will create a vast free-trade zone among a dozen Pacific Rim countries — and the two sides' strategic visions for Asia are in near-harmony.