Abe's U.S. trip may be postponed

Jan. 7, 2013 at 11:16 PM
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TOKYO, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may postpone his U.S. trip to February because of rescheduling difficulties of President Barack Obama, Japanese officials said.

Abe had been scheduled to visit the United States this month, his first foreign trip since becoming prime minister last month after his Liberal Democratic Party won parliamentary elections.

However, officials said that date may need to be rearranged because of Obama's busy schedule including his Jan. 21 inauguration for the second presidential term and the State of the Union address set for the end of January, Kyodo News reported.

"While I want to go to the United States as soon as possible and hold a summit to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, I've broadened the scope of my schedule, partly because of the circumstances," Abe was quoted as telling a gathering in Tokyo.

The report, quoting a government source, said Abe still hopes to go to the United States ahead of his possible South Korea trip for the Feb. 25 inauguration of that country's newly elected President Park Geun Hye.

Kyodo quoted government officials as saying Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai was sent to the United States Monday for talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and other officials to arrange Abe's meeting with Obama.

A Japanese official told Kyodo the United States feels Abe's visit would help "properly" discuss various issues including Japan's possible participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks and the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station in Okinawa prefecture.

The Japan Times reported Abe repeatedly has stressed the importance of strengthening Japan's military alliance with the United States as Japan and China are currently involved in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

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