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Obama Travels To Japan To End Asia Trip

Helen Tobin |
November 11, 2010 | 10:34 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

President Obama (Creative Commons)
President Obama (Creative Commons)
President Obama will make his final stop on his four-nation tour of Asia when he flies to Japan at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Seoul. The president will take part in formal meetings with other foreign leaders at the summit on Friday before flying to Tokyo for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation on November 13 and 14.  

Much has changed since Obama’s visit to Japan last year, when Washington pundits argued over whether a change in Japan’s ruling parties would make relations with the country trickier than those with China. Japan’s new administration is facing heightened domestic criticism ahead of Obama’s visit as Prime Minister Naoto Kan has seen his approval ratings plummet.  

Security is a critical issue as the ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan, has become uneasy over China’s increasing assertiveness throughout East Asia.  Japan and China experienced a naval confrontation earlier this year over the Senkaku islands after a Chinese boat fishing there rammed a Japanese coastguard vessel.  Japan seized -and later released-the Chinese boat.

The United States has provided Japan security backing over the dispute and Obama may use his meeting with Kan to affirm a bilateral security alliance, a move that could stem threats from the North Korea and Chinese militaries.  

Kan and the DPJ have also faced criticism for their economic stewardship ahead of the APEC meeting.  The gathering of 21 nations will focus attention on Obama’s lone trade initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Japan is still considering whether or not to join the nine-nation regional trade agreement, and the DPJ was unable to reach a consensus on whether Japan would use the conference to announce its intention to join the accord. Instead, the DPJ will use the conference to continue to gather information.

One bright spot in a Japan trip that may otherwise prove to be unproductive is Obama’s wardrobe.  The president will be spared the traditional indignity of wearing silly clothes for the APEC closing photograph. Japan is urging leaders to dress smartly, rather than dress up. 

Reach reporter Helen Tobin here



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