Obama, Noda meet in Cambodia

Nov. 20, 2012 at 11:28 AM
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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Cambodia Tuesday and said the meeting helped "reaffirm" the bilateral alliance.

The two met in Phnom Penh on the sidelines of the summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the East Asian Summit. Cambodia was the last stop on President Obama's three-nation Asia visit, which also included Thailand and Myanmar.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said Obama and Noda discussed Japan's aspirations to join the TPP and they "agreed to continue negotiations towards an achievement of that goal, which we believe would strengthen the TPP and be good for both Japan and the United States."

Rhodes said no one should read anything into the length of time Obama and Noda met when asked why the meeting was scheduled for 40 minutes but lasted only about 25 minutes.

"Obviously, this was on the margins of a summit, so you're not able to have ... an open-ended discussion," Rhodes said, adding he didn't know how long the meeting lasted. "But my understanding is that it was a good and friendly discussion between the two leaders."

The two leaders met amid rising tensions between Japan and China relating to their competing territorial claims over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu Islands by China, in the East China Sea. The United States, which has no involvement in the dispute, seeks its peaceful resolution.

"This is something we've been talking to our Japanese allies about for some time now. Again, our baseline is we, of course, are fully committed to Japan and its security -- that's the cornerstone of our alliance," Rhodes said. "We just believe that it's in Japan's interest; it's in China's interest; it's in the world's interest that the second- and third-largest economies in the world are able to reduce tensions around this issue. So we ultimately think that that's a good outcome for Japan."

During the media availability before they met, Obama said his bilateral with Noda was "another opportunity for us to reaffirm the extraordinary alliance," a pool report of their meeting said.

The president said he would discuss "the economic issues that the world is facing right now" and it would be "very important for us to coordinate effectively" on trade, investment and jobs.

Japan's economy is facing the threat of another recession as its exports have been hit by the global economic crisis and tensions with China that have seriously affected its trade with the Communist country. Japan's economy contracted 0.9 percent in the July-September quarter from the previous quarter, and another contraction in the next quarter could push into a recession.

Noda, facing increasing political pressure, last week dissolved the lower house of Parliament, paving the way for early elections Dec. 16, which could result in the defeat of his ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which has been in office since 2009.

In his comments about the meeting with Obama, Noda congratulated him on his re-election and expressed approval of the administration's Asia-Pacific pivot policy, which has come into force with the growth of China's military might and its growing territorial claims in the waters around its region.

"I welcome the U.S. policy to place importance on the Asia-Pacific region," Noda said through a translator, adding, "With the increasing severity of the security environment in East Asia, the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance is increasing."

The TPP is a U.S. initiative to bring 10 other countries -- Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Canada and Mexico -- under a free-trade agreement.

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