Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has announced that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama plan to hold bilateral talks in Tokyo on April 24. While the exact date of Obama’s arrival remains to be confirmed, many expect the U.S. president to arrive on April 23 as Japan has invited him as a state guest, only the second time a U.S. President has been invited as such since Bill Clinton in April 1996.
Obama’s visit to Japan is part of his four-nation Asian tour that would bring him to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. The two leaders are expected to reaffirm the U.S. – Japan alliance in light of regional issues of late. Instead of the usual joint statement or declaration announced after a summit, the two will release a “fact sheet,” which will cover issues of bilateral cooperation. Many believe this will include cybersecurity and space cooperation. The joint statement will be waived, as the two leaders have not concluded the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida noted that Obama and Abe will “stress the role of the U.S. – Japan alliance as a contributor to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.” Observers think that such reaffirmation is essential after recent nationalistic moves such as Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and controversial remarks by some lawmakers and NHK broadcasting chief drew apprehension from key U.S. policymakers. Both leaders are also anticipated to discuss China’s increased maritime activities and territorial claims. Another major talking point would be to uphold trilateral cooperation with South Korea in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing programs. Obama and Abe may also touch on the Ukraine crisis, which saw Russia annex Crimea and Japan’s determination to finally resolve the issue of North Korean abducting Japanese nationals some decades ago.