Japan and South Korea, two of the United States’ strongest allies in Asia, are reportedly lobbying for the attention of President Barack Obama when he visits the region this coming April. The U.S. President is scheduled to drop by Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, but Seoul is working hard to also be included in his itinerary.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will be issuing an invitation for Obama to turn his trip into a state visit, which will include a special audience with Emperor Akihito and a state banquet at the Imperial Palace. But if South Korea succeeds in getting Washington to include them in the visit, the trip to Japan will probably be cut short. Kishida will be in the U.S. capital on Friday to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. The April visit will probably be a major agenda in the meeting, with Japan proposing at least a two night visit in Tokyo.
While Japan still remains the U.S.’ strongest ally in the region, relations have somewhat cooled as of late, due to criticism expressed by Washington over Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in December. The U.S. expressed disappointment over the move, as it soured relations between Japan and its neighbors even more, due to the political and historical implications of that incident. Kishida’s trip is also to somewhat fix diplomatic ties and reaffirm the importance of this alliance. Obama’s schedule is set to be finalized later this month and will be watched keenly by both countries.
[ via Nikkei ]