Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to visit Washington later this month for a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Abe has picked the U.S. as the first destination of his official overseas trip, saying that he wants to rebuild the alliance which he said had become strained by the previous DPJ-led government.
“Japan must strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy,” Abe said during his first speech as prime minister last week. “That will be the key to re-stabilizing Japan’s regional diplomatic relations.”
During the summit in Washington, expected to take place after Obama’s inauguration, Abe and Obama are likely to discuss North Korea, China’s increased maritime activity and two thorny issues—Japan’s particpation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks and the proposed relocation of the U.S. air base from Futenma to Henoko.
During the election campaign, Abe criticized former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for mishandling foreign policy. However, Abe is likely to face the same difficulties as Noda. The Obama administration wants Japan to take part in the TPP talks, but Japan’s strong agricultural sector is against participation. Regarding the Futenma issue, Abe’s stance is to stick to the original agreement with Washington and move the base to Henoko, but Henoko citizens vehemently oppose the plan.