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Japan Prime Minister Starts US Visit   04/26 11:38

   Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's itinerary for his weeklong U.S. visit 
beginning Sunday will showcase the success of the alliance built from Tokyo's 
defeat in World War II, while promoting a political agenda based on still 
stronger military and economic ties.

   TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's itinerary for his 
weeklong U.S. visit beginning Sunday will showcase the success of the alliance 
built from Tokyo's defeat in World War II, while promoting a political agenda 
based on still stronger military and economic ties.

   The visit will take Abe from Boston to the Silicon Valley, with ample time 
for hobnobbing with high-flying businesspeople like the founders of Facebook 
and Apple, Japanese scholars and celebrities.

   With no major trade or economic deals expected, the aim, officials in Tokyo 
said, is to confirm an upgrading of joint defense guidelines and to advertise 
the bright side of Japan and its people, including Americans of Japanese 
ancestry, and possibly sell some bullet train systems.

   Abe is first among several leaders of Asia, including China and South Korea, 
visiting the U.S. this year, a sign of Washington's growing attention to the 
region.

   He can point to his brief summit the week before with Chinese President Xi 
Jinping as a sign of improving relations despite lingering friction over 
Japan's wartime history and territorial disputes. Abe still hasn't met 
bilaterally with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye due to a dispute over 
his stance on the issue of sex slaves --- women forced to work in military 
brothels during the war.

   But he will acknowledge the wartime past with a visit to the Holocaust 
Memorial National Museum. Abe will also go to Arlington National Cemetery and 
pay respects to Japanese-American war dead at the "Go for Broke" memorial.

   "I plan to deliver a message that Japan and the United States, based on our 
strong ties, will together build peace and prosperity in the 21st century and 
open a new era," Abe told reporters Sunday just before his departure.

   Abe's U.S. visit begins in Boston with a dinner at the home of Secretary of 
State John Kerry, and visits to Harvard and MIT. He will travel on to 
Washington for talks with President Barack Obama.

   On Wednesday, he will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint 
session of Congress, and likely will seek to tilt the balance in favor of 
Obama's request for "fast-track" rules to negotiate the Trans-Pacific 
Partnership, a 12-nation, a U.S.-led trade initiative. Recent ministerial-level 
talks between Japan and the United States have made progress, but officials say 
they don't expect a major breakthrough during Abe's visit.

   In his address, Abe is expected to touch on historical issues before 
highlighting Japan's contributions to relations with the U.S. since its postwar 
occupation ended in 1952.

   Abe said Sunday that he will focus on the future of Japan and the world. "I 
plan to show my vision about the future of Japan as we work with the United 
States, and about the world we want to achieve," he said.

   The speech "is basically evolving around the Japan-U.S. relationship, how we 
have come a long way in 70 years," Japan's ambassador to the U.S., Kenichiro 
Sasae, told a recent seminar at the Center for Strategic and International 
Studies in Washington. "What are the challenges we are heading for? What will 
be the best thing for the leaders to recognize and build together?"

   Abe said he is somewhat nervous about making a speech in English, and is 
hoping the lawmakers will be kinder than their peers back home.

   "In Japan, I have to deal with hecklers," he said.

   For Abe, who is pushing to expand Japan's defense capabilities, a top 
priority during talks with Obama is endorsing revised Japan-U.S. defense 
guidelines, to be finalized a day earlier between the two countries' foreign 
and defense ministers.

   The revision, the first in 18 years, would boost Japan's role in missile 
defense, mine sweeping and ship inspections, as the two militaries work 
together in a region amid China's growing assertiveness in disputed areas in 
the East and South China Sea claimed by Beijing. The new arrangement would also 
allow Japan to dispatch its armed forces beyond the region for logistical 
backup of U.S. military's global operations, in distant areas including the 
Middle East.

   Japan's military role is currently limited to its own self-defense, and the 
country's war-renouncing constitution still prohibits pre-emptive strikes, 
leaving any offensive action to the U.S.


(KA)


 
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